Manager's Comments - Lee McCulloch

April 22nd 2018 Jig Reflects on his Time at Kille:  “I’m not convinced that I just needed more time. It might have turned for me but we’ll never know. I don’t have any regrets. It hasn’t put me off management. I’m a football man and I love being about a dressing room. It’s all I’ve known in my life since I left school. Looking back, I enjoyed my time at Kilmarnock. But maybe I was a bit too intense for my own good. I was going in at 6am and not getting home until whatever time at night. If Kilmarnock had got Steve in last summer I could have stayed on as part of his coaching team. That would probably have been ideal. But it just wasn’t to be. There are no sour grapes or bitterness. He has to be a manager of the year contender. When you look at his CV, he’s worked with people like Jose Mourinho so he’s obviously a quality manager.”
McCulloch, though, believes he played his part in the Killie success story: “We brought in Alan Power who’s just been voted their player of the year, and Stephen O’Donnell who might be on the verge of a Scotland call-up. I told the Kilmarnock board and fans that I would leave the club in a better place than when I came in — and I think I did that, definitely.”

Oct 2nd Billy Bowie on Jig's Departure: “We had a meeting to talk about the team’s performance. It wasn’t our expectation that Lee would lose his job. We said to him to stick with it but it came down to his feelings and what was best for the club. He felt there wasn’t much more he could do here. I think he was too close to some of the players. It’s a big thing to go from being on the ground to manager.”

Oct 1st 2017: Kilmarnock can announce the departure of manager Lee McCulloch by mutual consent. "Assistant manager Peter Leven has also departed the club. Lee and Peter would like to thank the directors, players, staff and supporters for their assistance during their time at the club. Everyone at Kilmarnock thanks Lee and Peter for their hard work and dedication during their time with the club and we wish both all the best for the future.”

Sept 30th on the Staggies Post-Match: "I feel let down by that first half, Second half we huffed and puffed but to no avail. There has to be a realisation of where we are when we go on that pitch. We have let the fans down and I'm well aware of that, I'm well aware of their frustration and they were actually probably kind not to be booing longer and to be more hostile after that performance. We need to get back to doing the ugly side of the game. We spoke about adding a bit more aggression as a team. I'm disappointed to be brutally honest. There has to be a nastiness in our team. We're too nice, but happy to walk about with a swagger, with our toilet bags under our arms, and look the part but not be the part. I'm upset. I've let one or two individuals know. I can sympathise with it (the fans), and that's the truth. I try to bring honesty into it. The fans are only as bad as I thought they should have been after that performance, and that's the truth. I'm well aware they're hurting, I'm hurting but I will keep going. I want to turn this around, I want to get this win because there are players there who on their day can cause problems, that's the frustrating thing. But I'll be there. There's a frustration in me that I unloaded after the game - I had to, There's too much at stake, there's too many jobs at stake for players to be going through the motions. That's not me, I can't put my name to that first-half performance - that was embarrassing.".  No, I don't [feel under pressure]. I am feeling all right just now. I have just told the players my honest opinion. Of course we are [going to bounce back]. The truth has been told in the dressing room. The fans are entitled [to boo]. With that first-half performance, the fans were pretty kind, to be honest." - Match Recap

Sept 29th on the Staggies Pre-Match: "We’ve spoken all week about the importance of a good start to the match. Last week I thought we were by far the better team. We missed some chances and we’ve gifted a goal to them. You have to take the positives from it, on another day we could have won 4-0 last week. At the time, I didn’t say that but having watched the game back there were about three or four times in different spells we showed signs that we’re getting there. During the international break you have a free weekend and everybody will analyse things and if you see your name at the bottom of the table then there’s a little bit more time to dwell on it. It’s all about tomorrow and taking care of the important things in the match and in our mind."

Sept 23rd on the Dee Post-Match:  “If I was brutally honest I’d say that was two points lost for us. I thought over the course of the game we were the better team. Again, an individual mistake at the start of the match cost us but that will happen if we try to play a certain way. In the first half certain boys showed a nervousness. I think that comes from all the negative talk around this place. There’s a little bit of nervousness there but once we conceded the goal we showed great character and we should have won the game. Maybe Neil or some of the fans will think differently. Kris (Boyd) could have won it and at the time I thought ‘this is a right good chance, goal’ but having watched it again it bounced awkwardly on the surface. Slowly we’re showing progress. We’ve only lost once in our last four games. We’re still searching for our first win which is… hopefully going to come soon. There will be lots of positivity coming from the dressing room and myself".  - Match Recap -

Sept 16th on the Dons Post-Match: "The players were unbelievable to a man and they showed what they can do, which is great because we let the travelling fans down at Motherwell last week and that was a big improvement. We were forced into an early change in formation and we started to pass the ball more effectively and we certainly deserved a point by the end of the game. That ends the run of 13 straight defeats against Aberdeen, which has been a long time against a bogey team, but when you see the manager they have, the squad they have and the way they play, you know it's going to be hard. That makes it a massive point for us and hopefully that will be the turning point of the season because the boys have been under a lot of pressure lately and now we can look forward to showing some people we do have good players." - Match Report
On Jordan Jones Form: "He's already been on stand-by for his country and he's got potential to go to the World Cup, He didn't start last week but if he keeps playing as he did today then this club won't be able to keep him, that's for sure. I try to encourage him every day, to take him out of his comfort zone. We need to make him realise how good he is. JJ knows how highly I rate him - there's no reason he can't go to World Cups when he's playing like that."

Sept 14th on the Dons Pre-Match: "From the first day, I said to the players: 'I'll give you 100% honesty', and I feel that's what I've done in the meetings," said the Rugby Park manager.  There's no point doing it in a team meeting to try and embarrass anybody. After the Motherwell game, a few home truths were told so I'm pretty pleased with the way training went this week, In the second half, when we lost the goal the body language and the heads went down and that was what annoyed me the most. We've been stressing all week we have to play to the final whistle. There's not one place in this team that's nailed down. Maybe there were a few thinking that, (but) certainly after the one-to-ones they won't be thinking that now. It was just about telling the players the truth. There were three or four in mind that I thought were still playing within themselves, and needed to come out of their shells and start expressing themselves a bit more. The proof is in the pudding. Come match day we will see how we go, but it's not for the want of trying." 

Sept 9th on the Well Post-Match: "First half, we were okay. We passed the ball pretty well and looked solid in our shape. I was happy at half-time but was forced into a change when Gordon Greer pulled up with a groin injury.  In the second half, I thought we got bullied a little bit. Motherwell played well and were probably the better team in the first 25 minutes of the second half. I think that's what won them the game." - Match Report -

Aug 26th 2017 on the Accies Post-Match: "That's two points dropped, again individual errors costing us the goals. It was a bit of a slow game but if you got 2-0 up in any game in world football you're expected to keep a bit of game management and just come in with three points, regardless of how you play. I thought after we scored the second goal we panicked for some reason. I don't know why.
"The home form is atrocious for the last seven years, I don't know why so it's something that needs to start getting addressed other than just looking at the stats, something needs to give. If you panic when you go 2-0 up you don't deserve the three points. First goal we conceded was bad defending, the second it looked like a penalty from where I was standing, so no real complaints about that, unless I feel different when I see it again." - Match Report -

Aug 25th 2017 on the Accies Pre-Match:  “We know how important this Saturday is and we’re desperate to get the first win. It’s going to be difficult because Hamilton have made a great start to the season and picked up a good victory against Hibs on Saturday.  I know if the team doesn’t win games then, ultimately, the blame lies at my door — and if it doesn’t improve, then it’ll be my head.  But I don’t fear any of that. I want the team to keep training and playing the way myself and my coaching staff think is best because I do believe that we will come good.”
On Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers comments on McCulloch  “outstanding manager .He is very forward-thinking, he wants to do the right things, coach the right way and be organised.” .... “To have praise from a coach like Brendan was very humbling. It’s difficult to go toe to toe with a side like his but I thought our shape was good, we looked organised, and we held them to longer-range shots first half.  Then there’s a wee bit of brilliance from Rogic that opens us up and sets up the goal. We’re showing signs that we’ve improved.” Stevie Smith returned to the midfield for Saturday’s match and played 60 minutes, while Stephen O’Donnell also featured in his first league start. 
On Gary Dicker,  “Gary’s still two or three weeks away but we’re desperate to get him back and playing because he’s an important player for us. He was the player of the year last season and I think we have missed him in the midfield.”

Aug 19th on the Celtic Post-Match:“Disappointed that we got beaten, obviously, but I thought that there were a lot of positives. Our shape was good, we looked organised, and it was a wee bit of brilliance from Rogic that opened us up and set up the goal. At the end of the game we went to 4-4-2, we opened up a bit, and they caught us on the break. [I was] delighted with the work rate, and the performance of the players. We are improving. I'm delighted to get Eamonn [Brophy] in, he has scored goals in the league before, he’s familiar with the league, and the club, and is obviously a good player.” " Match Report

Aug 12th on the Hearts Post-Match: "I thought we were the better team. It was a sloppy goal to lose after five minutes but that was a bit of a wake-up call for us and after that I thought we were a lot better for the rest of the match. We were a little bit unlucky with Rory McKenzie's chance and another couple of half-chances to put crosses in, but I thought we sort of dominated and it is a little bit hard to take. But we need to dust ourselves down and go again.  We spoke all week about starting the game well and then after five minutes it is backs to the wall. But Hearts are a definite top-four side in this league and to play the way we did for 85 minutes against them is where the positives come from, albeit we didn't get anything from the game. There might be a chance to get one more player in, maybe two, but we will wait and see." Match Report

Aug 8th on the Celtic (Betfred) Post-Match: "We didn't deserve anything from the game, You can judge players more when you're getting beat than you can when you're winning, and the majority of the players showed the character tonight." - Match Report

Aug 8th on the Celtic (Betfred) Pre-Match: "I think it'll be counter-attacking football. That's what most teams coming here do. We've got to come here and hope we can make an upset. I just mix it up a little bit. We've gone one up and it'll be Lee [Erwin] leading the line. "[Alan Power] will bring experience in the middle of the park. He's played in arenas like this before."

Aug 5th on the Saints Post-Match:  “I was happy with the performance but obviously disappointed with the result. The young squad that we’ve got probably needs to be a wee bit more streetwise. From what I remember of their goals, they were pretty poor goals to lose and we’ll learn from it.  There were enough positives to take out of the game today to say that I know we are going to be alright. We are not coming out the blocks in games, I might need to speak to Peter Leven about his warm-up! But we finished strong again, so that’s pleasing. We played with two different formations and I thought we looked good at both. It shows we can mix the squad up. “Lee (Erwin) made an impact when he came on. Before joining us he had ten days of doing nothing because he didn’t go away with Leeds pre-season. We are trying to bleed him in, but you can see he’s a good player and showed a good partnership with Boydy already. There are loads of positives but the negatives are that they had two shots at goal and two goals. They dominated possession first half but we coped with that pretty well and I’m looking at the positives.” - Match Report -

Aug 4th 2017 On McDonald Being His No 1: “We now have two fantastic keepers at Kilmarnock.It’s up to Cammy Bell to try and take the jersey from Jamie MacDonald. Jamie came back in better shape than he did last year. He’s been more focused and more determined, and he’s played very well in every game so far, so he’s our first choice.”

On Adding Further Players:“I’m still looking to bring in two more players. There have been a lot of signings, but that had to happen because we had been left with ten players at the end of last season, and two of them have left. We made the extra signings, but we need that because otherwise injuries and suspensions could make our squad look a little light. My one worry about having so many new faces is it might make it difficult for us at first, but we had to do it this year so we don’t have to do it again next season. I want to build a team with an identity and a bit of style. If you are a fan and the team is full of players on loan you have never heard of, it’s less likely you will come and watch the games. Nearly all of our recruitment has been to bring in players who are familiar with the Scottish game, and who also know Kilmarnock because supporters can then relate to them. The other difference is we’ve signed lots of experienced professionals.

Aug 3rd 2017 on the Saints Pre-Match: “We need the fans to be the 12th man for us – starting on Saturday. Let’s get stuck in and make it a great atmosphere, let’s make Rugby Park a fortress again. For the past six or seven years it has been a nice place for teams to come and play with no pressure in a lovely stadium. We want to change that and make sure it’s as tough a place to come as possible.” “When I came into the manager’s position, I said I wanted to sign players who were established and that the fans could relate to and I feel I’ve done that so far. Some of them have been experienced players and others have established themselves at a young age. But the proof will be in the pudding and we need to make sure we’re getting the results we need.” 
On the BetFred Draw: “I felt the pre-season went okay and we have managed to get the players up to speed. I was pleased to get through in the Betfred Cup and it shows a bit of progress already from last season’s performance in the competition. It’s a difficult tie against Celtic but we’ll have a game plan to go there with and will look forward to it.”

July 29th 2017 on the Sons Post-Match: “I’m delighted with the second-half performance, First half, though,we were a yard or two off it and they were the better team for the first 30 or 40 minutes until we got to grips with it. We looked a bit jaded for some reason but, in the second half, we got a reaction. We passed the ball more crisply, created lots of chances. If it wasn’t for Scott Gallacher it could have been a couple more. All in all, I’m pleased with the second half but the first half just wasn’t good enough. We can’t afford to start like that [against St Johnstone] on Saturday, put it that way.”- Match Report -
On Signing Gordon Greer: “It would be a tremendous coup if we could get that one over the line and there’s one or two others we’re actively speaking to.”

July 27th 2017: “It all depends on the other clubs in terms of a time scale, we’d like to get players in as soon as possible.We obviously have the under-20s there as well which we can use to bolster the squad throughout the season.” “In the past couple of games we have played well and we managed to re-group after the disappointment of the first game. It was always going to take a wee bit of time because we’ve made a lot of new signings. But we were pleased with the way we played on Saturday in tough conditions. Saturday’s going to be a really tough game for us. They are a good side who are well organised. Ian Durrant (Dumbarton No2) will want to come back here and get a good result as well, so we know it’ll be hard. 

“I think in the first few games they have definitely underachieved but they maybe haven’t managed to get all the players in they would have liked so far in the transfer window.”
On Chris Burke: “Since I’ve spoken to Chris he has shown a real desire to come here and do well. He’s a very talented player but as well as that he can help the younger boys in the squad because he has that experience.”

July 22nd on the Annan Post-Match: "After the first match we knew we had to put a couple of wins together and we've done that. We played slightly different today and it worked for us. - Match Report -
On Kris Boyd: "When you have the finishing ability he has, you can't write a guy like that off,  I've seen it for the last 15 years. Kris Boyd has been written off at every opportunity because he's a bit more high-profile than most. He's always good in the dressing room, and even when he's not scoring, People like to focus on what he's not doing but I focus on what he is doing. He's always talking and organising on the pitch, which helps me, and he's vocal in the dressing room."

July 18th on Signing Chris Burke: "I'm delighted that Chris has signed for Kilmarnock. Chris had many options available to him so I'm thrilled that he will be a Kilmarnock player for the upcoming season. He's a great signing for the fans and the dressing room. Chris has had a great career to date and has payed at the highest level. With his experience, Chris can pass this on to the youngsters coming through." 

July 14th on the A*r Post-Match: "We're bitterly disappointed to lose against our biggest rivals. We won't be taking the result lightly that's for sure. What cost us the game was our first-half display and switching off at corners. That's not good enough.  There was too much lumping the ball instead of getting the ball down and playing in little pockets, which we've been encouraging the players to do. We didn't deserve to win that game. Maybe a point would have been fair but our final ball was lacking."  - Match Report -

July 1st 2017: “We have to get it right now so this never happens again because it’s not fair on the core of players here, it’s not fair on the youths and it’s not fair on the fans. How can you ask fans to come every week when they don’t who the players are? People are coming in the gates and saying: ‘Who is that? We need some identification off the pitch and we’ll do that by integrating with the community but we need that identity on the pitch too. It makes a difference and the one thing that has not been here either manager or player-wise for the past eight years has been continuity. There were about 40 players used last season. That’s embarrassing. In one, two or three years from now, I want the same sort of group to be here, so we are building a squad and a team for the future and not one for a season, which has happened. We are still short on numbers and, at the moment, it’s about getting the right players in as we’ve been held up a little in the summer for various reasons, including my own situation. It’s going to take time because this is the third season in a row where it is going to be a complete rebuild of the squad. Partick Thistle made the top six last season and they have had the basis of the same squad for two or three years, whereas it’s been like a revolving door at Kilmarnock. Guys coming in for six months and then disappearing. That has to change and it will be changed.”

On Being In the Managers Role: “It’s different, I’ll say that for nothing. I wouldn’t say I ever thought I’d seen everything in the game but I did think I was pretty experienced in how things work. But being the manager has changed that outlook completely because there is so much on. We need to organise things such as the times for pre-match meals, the times for buses to away games, plan training, pick teams, manage the staff, manage the coaches and the players. You name it. But do you know, it’s absolutely brilliant. You won’t hear me moaning and there are zillions of folk who would like to be in this position. Is it a challenge? Yes but that’s what I want. Nothing fazes me as a person and I’m honest. I’ll be honest with players as I was at the end of last season with players, that’s the way I am and the way I will be. There have been hurdles to deal with but I’m trying to change the mentality of the club and the way it has been thinking for maybe 10 years. I want to change the full psyche. I don’t want negativity around the place. I’m not being down on anyone. Everyone has a right to think how they want but why can’t it all be positive?  Hibs are coming up with 15,000 season-ticket holders. We’ve got 3000, so they’ll immediately blow us away in terms of budget. So you have Celtic and Rangers, along with Hibs and Hearts and Aberdeen, who were second last year with an unbelievable manager and squad. Partick finished top six last season and St Johnstone have been there for years. We need to be realistic but that doesn’t mean we can’t be positive.”

 “Of course it’ll be tricky trying to bring together an entire new group and gelling them together. Our first game is just two weeks away and it’s a derby game against Ayr at Somerset Park. You can’t get a better game for me to find out about the player’s personalities and the size of their heart. I’ll find that out early. And I’d be hoping to the correct responses and answers.”

June 29th 2017: “We officially started back with a double session on Wednesday and the lads had their fitness testing done on Monday and Tuesday. Sometimes when you’re bringing in a large number of players it can be difficult to gel straight away so this sort of trip will help with that. We’ll be training three times a day and getting some good work done so we’re looking forward to it.”

On Alan Power...  “Alan is an aggressive midfield player and will add something different for us, plus he has plenty of experience having played against Premier League teams last season. He’s a good signing because he isn’t like anything else we have at the moment".
McCulloch on Daniel  Higgins: “Daniel is a young player with a lot of potential and we’re hopeful that this season he’ll be able to become a first-team regular. Dundee were desperate to keep hold of him because he is such an exciting young player.”

June 5th 2017 after being confirmed as the new permanent Killie boss: “The challenge I have is that we currently have 10 – possibly 12 – players under contract to the club. “We have 10 loan signings going back so the hardest part of my job will be replacing them.

I need to make sure that the players we bring in know this league and know this club. I won’t say anything negative about what’s happened here in the past but I won’t be going down the route of brining in lots of players on loan.
There have been conversations with (directors) Billy Bowie and John Kiltie about how I want to build a team - and that means we can’t rebuild it every single pre-season, which has been the case for too long now.

I want to bring some continuity to the club so the fans can feel some rapport with the players instead of bringing in people they’ve never heard of and then repeating that cycle every year.
Obviously, this approach is going to take time to come together. We’ve looked at Aberdeen and St Johnstone and how they’ve done it – you don’t usually see too many coming and going at those clubs each summer.

“That’s why this window is so important – it’s probably the biggest challenge of my career. It’s all about bringing in the right players and then hitting the ground running because, if I don’t, I’ll be under pressure from the start.”

McCulloch distanced himself from suggestions that his former Rangers team-mate Kirk Broadfoot could be among the first of those experienced heads he wants at the club, pointing out that he’s still under contract at Rotherham.

But there is no doubt he is looking for experience to help along a squad packed with talented young kids - including young Greg Taylor who scored a stunning goal for Scotland’s Under 20s this to beat Brazil at the Toulon tournament.

We have, without doubt, the best pathway from youth team to first team in the country. We’re the youngest team in Britain – last season we finished with a schoolboy on our bench.

Innes Cameron couldn’t train with us during the week because he was studying for his exams but he would turn up on a Saturday and still managed to get on the pitch.

When Scotland beat Brazil we had Greg Taylor, the goalscorer, plus Iain Wilson and Adam Frizzell in the team and another player in the squad, which is more than any other club.

They are the future for Kilmarnock and they’ve all come through the academy and we have to take pride in that. Hamilton are the only other club doing as much as we are in that department.

Our first team’s average age last season was 24.4, which made us the 27th youngest team in Europe. Even our loan signings were mostly teenagers.

But now that I’ve got the job, I think we’ll need a couple of experienced players to help these kids, along with Kris Boyd, Steven Smith, Rory McKenzie and Jamie MacDonald.

There are one or two players whose contract ended I still want to speak to. I had discussions with Jordan Jones, who did really well for me last season.

We have a good relationship and it was brilliant to read that he wouldn’t re-sign unless I got the job. He hadn’t been in the team until Peter and myself took charge.

We gave him encouragement and a little bit of confidence and now he’s in the Northern Ireland squad. In my opinion, he’s still only shown 70 percent of what he’s capable of – he can go a lot further.”

It’s a new dawn for the club, so hopefully everyone in the community will come back to support the team, create an atmosphere on a Saturday that’s intimidating.

Everyone bangs on about our home form, it’s been bad for the last few years, the last five years have been the worst in the club’s history.

It’s easier for away teams to come and play here when there isn’t quite as much of an atmosphere.

It gives the opposition players a lift and they thrive on playing at this lovely stadium, lovely pitch without much of an atmosphere. They’re not intimidated at all and I want us all to change that together.”

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