Killie Welcome Mixu!
Chairman Michael Johnston begins the task of replacing Jimmy Calderwood, with first team coach Steve Kean of Blackburn, being his first choice, but this turns out to be a non-starter. Johnston then turns attentions towards Germany's World Cup-winning midfielder Thomas Hassler, who did interview, but knocks Killie back.
Weds June 23rd Mixu Paatelainen joins Kilmarnock as their new manager, agreeing a two-year deal with an option for a third.
Killie announce Verve the towns largest auto group will become the 2010-11 team sponsor. Cammy Bell agrees to a new 1 year deal.
On July 1st Killie boss Mixu Paatelainen installs Kenny Shiels as his assistant at Rugby Park. During July Killie take part in the Devon based Joma tourney with the following results...Bideford 1 Killie 7 - Here, Blackpool 2 Killie 2 - Here. Then play a friendly and win ..Torrington 0 Killie 16 - Here
Mixu uses his contacts from far & away and adds the following players to Killie's squad.....David Da Silva, midfielder (CSKA Sofia); Ben Gordon, defender (Chelsea, loan); Kyle Letheren, goalkeeper (Plymouth); James Dayton, midfielder (unattached), Mohamadou Sissoko, defender (Udinese, loan); Harry Forrester, striker (Aston Villa, loan). To close out July Killie lose in a Fri PM match at Luton Town 0-1 - Here
Hammy Nets Killie Winner At The Dons
Killie play their final pre-season Friendly drawing 0-0 with Spanish side Valladolid - Here. Killie fans are starting to worry on where the goals are going to come from as no real striking threat has been added by Mixu.
Opening day see's Killie fall 1-2 at Ibrox, with Hamill converting a penalty. Naismith's goal proves to be the winner, with Naisy not overly celebrating his goal out of respect to the Killie fans, a little bit of class at least. Gordon, Dayton & De Silva all make their Killie debuts, as Killie unveiled a slick fast paced passing game. Cammy Bell is now firmly installed as Killie's No 1, with Alan Combe under going a double hernia operation.
Killie's home SPL opener was to be 0-1 loss to Motherwell. A lot of huff & puff with little end product from Dayton & Invincibile who were Killie's starting forwards. Mohamadou Sissoko was handed a debut, replacing the benched Liam Kelly as the only adjustment to the Rugby Park side for Mixu Paatelainen's first home game.
With no goals from open play in Killie's first 2 SPL matches, Mixu gave Conor Sammon his first start of the season against Airdrie Utd in Killie's 2nd round Co-Op Cup tie. "Feed the Fish & He Will Score" is born, as Sammon nets a hat-trick in Killie's 6-2 win. Also on target were Wright, Kelly, & Sissoko.
Killie's SPL fortunes take a turn for the better to end Aug with a fine team display in a 1-0 win at Aberdeen. Hamill was the Killie hero with 92nd min winner, taking full advantage of a lapse in the Dons back line.
Before the Aug transfer window closes Mixu signs 27-year-old Finnish international Alexei Eremenko (right) on a season-long loan from Ukraine club Metalist Kharkiv.
Killie finish the month in 7th place with 3 points from 3 matches.
Fish Celebrates Late Accies Leveler!
To open SPL play for September Killie host the Buddies, and take the lead with a James Dayton goal that would be contender for goal of the season. Unfortunately for Dayton he is lost for at least 6 months with a knee injury. However it was Killie debut boy Alexei Eremenko that seal the points with a dipping free-kick to give Killie a merited 2-1 win. Next were Celtic to come calling to Rugby Park, and despite taking an early lead through Conor Sammon, Killie eventually fell 1-2 with Killie also conceding their obligatory penalty kick to the Old Filth. Better was to follow as Killie trounced under fire Hughes Hibees 3-1 in the League Cup at home. A Hamill double along with De Silva doing the damage.
Next up was a visit to New Douglas Park, and Killie put in a horror first half show to fall two goals down. But 2 late goals from Hamill (pen) & the Fish inside the last 7 mins saved Killie's bacon, as the match ended 2-2. A draw that certainly felt like a win!
Killie closed out Sept hosting Ayr Utd in a 4-0 win, to commemorate Garry Hay's testimonial match, with just over 4,000 showing up!
Killie finish the month in 7th place with 7 points from 6 matches.
Mixu's Boys Thump JJ's Boys
Killie start October with 3 successive 1-2 defeats, and fall to bottom of the SPL going into a Sunday SPL clash at in-form Hearts. For the record Killie lost to Dundee Utd (H), Hibs (A), & Inverness (H). Scoring for Killie in each of the these losses were; Sammon, Silva & recently signed new boy Portuguese forward Rui Miguel.
Prior to the Hearts match Killie were bounced out of the League Cup by Rangers at home, 0-2, in a game that Killie out-shot Rangers 21 to 4!
No one could foresee the change in Killie's fortunes that started for them at Tynecastle on Oct 31st.
Killie defender Frazer Wright flashed home a header for the opener early in the second half. Jim Jefferies' Hearts pinned his former team back in the second period. But an 80th-minute strike by Conor Sammon and a sublime lob by Alexei Eremenko gave the visitors the points in a 3-0 shocker!. Kilmarnock, propping up the Scottish Premier League at kick-off, knew the challenge central defenders Wright and Mahamadou Sissoko faced in preventing their former striker Kevin Kyle from adding to his goal tally, or from providing his Hearts team-mates with chances, but they stuck to their tasks superbly. Even more interestingly were the honest, candid remarks from Mixu, after the match, where he apologised to Miguel, for picking him for this type of match, and saw fit to replace him with a confidence growing and quickly maturing Conor "the Fish" Sammon after only 38 mins of play.
Killie finish the month in 9th place with 10 points from 10 matches, with many plaudits but few points!
Fish Celebrates His 7th Nov SPL Goal Vs The Dons
Killie buoyed by their great Tynecastle win, go on to take 10 points out of their 5 Nov SPL fixtures. 3-0 wins are recorded against St Johnstone at Perth (OG, Sammon & Kelly) & Accies at home with the impressive Ben Gordon opening the scoring before the Fish netted a double.
Three consecutive 3-0 wins.... obviously a Killie SPL "best"!
Dundee Utd do end Killie's fine run where the spoils were shared in a 1-1 draw, with Killie's lead (through the Fish again) lasting only about a minute. Still a decent away point.
Some exciting recognition for Killie as both Craig Bryson (right) & Cammy Bell make their International debuts for Scotland, as second half substitutes against the Faeroe Islands. Adding to this honour was Alexei Eremenko being capped for Finland in the same week!
The first time ever Killie had 3 International caps in their side!!
Killie then hosted Rangers in a Sat ESPN televised match, that saw Killie take the lead, conceded two stupid penalties, have Sissoko sent off, fight back with 10 men, to pull even, only to fall a little short in an eventual 2-3 home loss. The on-fire Conor Sammon scoring both of Killie's goals. Rangers only shot on (or off) target in the first half, was needlessly awarded penalty. Killie dominated for long spells but ultimately they knew they had self-destructed.
To finish up Nov Killie hosted the Dons in what would be Mark McGee's final match in charge of the Dons. In a game notable for the use of replacement referees (from Israel) Killie won 2-0 with Sammon & Hamill (Penalty) doing the damage for Killie.
Killie finish the month in 6th place with 20 points from 15 matches, and have Finish playmaker Alexei Eremenko named SPL Player of the Month.
"It's a big thing for me to win this award, Winning any award is a good thing, but especially this one.
Craig Bryson Nets The Caley Opener
Killie's first 2 fixtures in Dec Motherwell (A) & Celtic (A) fall victim to the UK's brutal winter conditions. However Killie's good run was not to be thwarted when they played their 1st match of the month on Dec 18th at home to Hibernian. A 2-1 win was recorded with Liam Kelly celebrating his new 2 year contract with a fine first half double, both supplied from Ben Gordon.
Killie then on Dec 21st took a shock lead through Conor Sammon's 12th SPL goal of the season at Celtic Park, and came within 4 minutes of breaking their 55 year Parkhead "jinx". Mixu despite being satisfied with a point, criticises Killie's passing and overall performance, in his post match comments. Certainly a mark of far the team had come where 1-1 was not good enough.
Killie's final match of the year was to be away to 4th place Inverness, after the Boxing Day postponement of the Hearts match. Killie knew a win over the Highlanders would see them leap-frog over them into the lofty 4th SPL position.
Craig Bryson, Liam Kelly and Jamie Hamill inflicted the damage with Richie Foran's reply at 2-0 failing to muster a revival for tired Caley, as Ayrshire's Finest ran out worthy 3-1 winners.
Killie finished the year with only one defeat 2-3 against Rangers - in their last nine matches. Rangers (A) will be Killie's upcoming Scottish Cup opponents on Jan 10th, so a good chance for revenge.
Chelsea inform Killie that they will not be extending Ben Gordon's loan deal beyond Jan 3rd. Gordon will be a great loss having supplied 3 assists (all to Kelly) in the last 3 matches.
Killie finish the month in 4th place with 27 points from 18 matches.
Killie open the New Year taking a sold-out allocation of fans up to Paisley for the St Mirren match on Jan 3rd. Killie pick-up a hard fought, but deserved 2-0 win against the Buddies, the first ever win at the Paisley club's new home ground by a Kilmarnock team.
A downside of the win was that Ben Gordon's loan deal from Chelsea had ended, after the London club decided not to extend it.
In the following weeks, Killie made a few more ‘free transfer’ signings in keeper Anssi Jaakkola (Slavia Prague), and midfielders Billy Berntsson (GIF Sundsvall) and Benjamin Laurant (Le Havre).
Hopes of a Scottish FA Cup run were dashed at Ibrox on January 10, when Rangers won 3-0. It was a comfortable win for the cup holders, as Killie never got to grips with the game, being rather easily ‘bullied’ out of playing their normal passing game.
Back on SPL duty, the loss of a late goal against the run of play at home to St Johnstone saw Kilmarnock held to a disappointing 1-1 draw. This was the first of three home SPL games in the space of a week that unfortunately saw them fail to record a win, even although they were the dominant force in each game.
The lack of a ‘killer’ instinct, and defensive errors near the end of each game cost them dearly.
A midweek 1-2 defeat from Hearts, whose winner was scored with a few minutes to go, was followed by a 1-1 draw with Dundee United, whose injury time equaliser was their first direct shot on target in the entire game. This completed the miserable trio of home results.
A 1-1 draw at Hamilton saw Conor Sammon score what was to be his last goal (above) for the club before his reported £700,000 transfer to Wigan Athletic. The Irishman had been in tremendous form, and it was inevitable that he was going to move on, having scored 18 goals in 23 (+ 4 subs) league and cup appearances to that point in the season.
A few new players did arrive at Rugby Park to help bolster the squad for the crucial run-in to the end of the season. Killie signed ‘free transfer’ players in midfielder Scott Evans (Llanelli), Gabonese international utility player Willy Aubameyang (AC Milan) and also acquired striker Kieran Agard (Everton) on loan.
A couple of days after the close of the transfer window, Killie enjoyed a hard fought 1-0 midweek win at Motherwell. The win was Killie’s 10th in 23 visits to Fir Park in the SPL making Well the club that Killie have had the most away wins against in the SPL since it began in 1998.
Kilmarnock were now back in contention for not only a ‘top six’ finish, but also a place in the Europa League, according to a growing amount of speculation in the media. Typically, just as soon as these suggestions were made, Killie suffered their first back-to-back defeats in the SPL since mid-October, when they lost 1-2 away to Hibernian, and were unceremoniously hammered 0-5 at Aberdeen.
The defeat at Easter Road was extremely unlucky, as like the majority of the other league defeats prior to it, they had been for most of the game the better team, but lost through their own misgivings, rather than by the opposition being better.
However, at Aberdeen, this was not the case, and it was clearly obvious that the home team were more ‘up’ for the game than Killie. Despite a promising early spell of dominance, Killie never looked capable of achieving a result after the home team scored their first goal, and they went on to suffer the biggest defeat by a Killie team at Aberdeen since May 5, 1983 (0-5 in Premier League), and their worst in the SPL since September 30, 2006 (0-5 at Motherwell). The fact that Kilmarnock failed to score in the defeat at Pittodrie also brought to an end a remarkable scoring run that had seen Mixu Paatelainen’s team score in 23 consecutive league games – the longest ever run of scoring in consecutive league games in the same league season by a Kilmarnock team. It is not the overall record, however, because in the early years of their Scottish League history, when there was only 18 games in a league season, Kilmarnock scored in 44 successive league games in a row spread over a few seasons, between May 1897 and September 1899.
Well Win (A) Last Win of the Season!
The heavy defeat at Aberdeen seemed to act as a wake up call to Kilmarnock, and they returned to winning ways with successive 2-0 wins against St Mirren (H) and Hearts (A). In both these games, Alexei Eremenko scored a goal, thus doubling his tally to four goals for the club. By a strange coincidence, his first two goals earlier in the season had been scored against both St Mirren and Hearts, and also at the same venues, Rugby Park and Tynecastle respectively.
The win over St Mirren meant Killie had a 100 per cent record against Saints in the three league meetings for the first time since the 2000-01 season.
The win against Hearts meant that Kilmarnock had beaten the Jambos at Tynecastle twice in the league in the same season for the first ever time. They had beaten them twice in the same season at Tynecastle back in 1964-65, but the first of those wins was in the League Cup, 1-0 on August 22, 1964, with the other being the famous 2-0 league title win on April 24, 1965.
As March progressed, a re-arranged away fixture with Rangers, brought forward from April 16 at the request of the Ibrox club, saw Killie lose unluckily 1-2 by virtue of a late own goal. They more than made up for this the following week, when they came from a goal down to beat Motherwell at Rugby Park by 3-1. This was, arguably, the finest performance by Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in the entire season. Indeed, it was perhaps one of the best by any Kilmarnock team for many a long time at their home ground. They completely outplayed the visitors, and put on a terrific display of passing football that was widely applauded by the media, and those who watched it live on television in homes throughout the whole of Great Britain.
Little did anyone know at the time, with eight games remaining in the season, that this game on the March 19 was to be the last with Mixu Paatelainen in charge of the club, and even worse, the last win of the season.
Around this time it was announced that former centre back Ryan O’Leary, who had left the club the previous year had returned to train with them, and had been given a contract until the end of the season.
Less than a fortnight after the game with Motherwell, Mixu left the club to become the manager of his national team, Finland.
In the nine months in charge with assistant Kenny Shiels, the pair of them had worked tirelessly to transform Kilmarnock FC from a relegation-bound club into perhaps the most attractive playing team in the country.
They put together a squad made up of the remains of the team that had just avoided relegation the previous season, along with free transfers and loan deal players from England and Europe. Although not world-beaters, they were a pleasure to watch and even had the opposition support applauding some of the entertaining football they played at times.
However, Mixu left without finishing what he had started, and Kenny Shiels was left to carry on the good work. Initially, it was only on a temporary three-game basis until the ‘split’, according to chairman Michael Johnston, although the Irishman was eventually to remain caretaker until the end of the season.
A nervy 0-0 draw away to St Johnstone was enough to give Kilmarnock a point that, along with results elsewhere, guaranteed them a ‘top six’ finish for the first time since 2006-07.
Unfortunately for Kenny Shiels, a horrendous run of injuries and a few suspensions kicked in with a vengeance about this time, and he had a depleted squad to work with for the rest of the campaign.
Defender Frazer Wright picked up a bad shoulder injury at Perth that ended his season, and unknown at the time, it proved to be his last game for the club, as he decided to reject a new contract offer at the end of the season, to sign, ironically, for St Johnstone instead.
A 1-1 draw at home with Inverness was followed by a heavy 0-4 home defeat from title-chasing Celtic. This completed the trio of games before the ‘split’, but Killie had lost their confidence somewhat, and had slipped to fifth place, and the hopes of a fourth place finish and a place in the Europa League looked pretty forlorn.
Hunners O Huns @ Ruggers in the Season Finale!
A 2-4 away defeat from Dundee United completely ended the fourth place hopes, but a well-deserved 2-2 home draw against Hearts, a game that they really should have won, gave promise that the fifth place they sat in could well be maintained.
The scorer of Killie’s first goal in the draw with Hearts was James Fowler. This was his fourth goal for the club, but his first ever at Rugby Park.
In this game, Jamie Hamill picked up an injury, and with a suspension due to start, his season was effectively over. Unknown at the time, this proved to be his last-ever game for the club. He decided at the end of season to move to Hearts, rather than sign on again with Kilmarnock.
The last week of the season started with a much better performance than the previous one at home to Celtic 18 days earlier, but Kilmarnock still lost 0-2. This was actually the third visit of Celtic to Rugby Park on SPL duty in the season, and it was a unique and historic occasion. It was the first ever time in the 11 seasons since the ‘split’ situation had been introduced in the SPL that Celtic had been requested to visit another club for a third time in the same campaign. They had, until then, been the only club not to have had this unfair fate inflicted upon them. The defeat from Celtic meant a new unwanted record had been set by Kilmarnock, for it was the first time in their history that they had lost three times at home to a team in the same league season. In the midweek, Kilmarnock were again a shade unfortunate not to do a lot better than a 1-1 draw at Motherwell. This game heralded the end of the loan spell of Alexei Eremenko with the club, as he was suspended for the last game at home to Rangers. The point won at Fir Park ensured that fifth place was secured, and a welcome financial boost would be earned for the club.
Sadly, the best season in four years at the club ended miserably, with a horrible 1-5 defeat at home to Rangers on the last day, with the visitors celebrating the winning of the SPL title in the process.
It also saw Craig Bryson, Mehdi Taouil and on-loan defender Mohamadou Sissoko play their last games for Kilmarnock.
In the weeks after the season ended, team captain Bryson moved to Derby County for an eventual £450,000 fee, whilst Taouil joined Hearts after turning down a new contract offer from Killie, and Sissoko returned to his parent Italian club, Udinese.