Next Kilmarnock Manager: Who could replace Tommy Wright?
After three minutes Kilmarnock were leading. After 20 minutes Dunfermine had equalised. In the 63rd minute the match was abandoned due to fog. Then within an hour Killie boss Tommy Wright had been sacked.
“It is with regret that we have had to take this decision as I know how much Tommy wanted to bring success to Kilmarnock,” Director Billy Bowie said in a club statement on Saturday evening.
“We thank him for his hard work and dedication during his time at Rugby Park and wish him all the best for the future.
“Everyone at the club is under no illusions that promotion back to the Premiership is the number one target for the season and with half of our league matches remaining as well as the upcoming January transfer window, our full focus is on appointing a new manager to achieve that goal.”
Wright, who enjoyed great success with St Johnstone, was appointed at Kilmarnock in February but was unable to keep them in the top-flight.
Fast-forward to Christmas and his employers have decided to pull the plug with the club 5th in the Scottish Championship, five points adrift of leaders Arbroath albeit having played a game less than the four teams above them.
As a result the Ayrshire outfit are searching for their third manager of 2021, and fourth boss since the successful tenure of Steve Clarke who left in May 2019 in order to take charge of Scotland.
Who could Kilmarnock turn to next as they bid to appoint a manager who can propel them to promotion back up to the Premiership?
In terms of available managers Jack Ross, Neil Lennon, Alex Neil, and Derek McInnes all represent high-profile options right now. There's every chance each of these figures have their sights set on another Premiership post or potentially a job in England, but if you don't ask, you don't get...
Jack Ross impressively led St Mirren to the Championship title in 2018, before he was lured down south to Sunderland, only to return to Scotland two years ago with Hibernian whom he led to 3rd and two domestic cup finals. The 45-year-old was sent packing earlier this month just 10 days before the League Cup final against Celtic.
We’ll have to wait and see if he’s ready to make a quick return to management, but one thing that could work in Kilmarnock’s favour is the club’s head of football operations, James Fowler, who previously worked as Ross’ assistant at both St Mirren and Sunderland.
We’re still waiting for see where former Aberdeen boss Derek McInnes crops up next. He’s won a promotion to the Premiership, with St Johnstone, and is famed for his eight-year tenure at Aberdeen which included a League Cup triumph and four runners-up finishes behind Celtic.
Alex Neil rose to prominence in his first dugout job at Hamilton, which he took aged 31. He successfully orchestrated a Premiership promotion in his first full season, was subsequently lured over to Norwich whom he led up to the Premier League. He’s since spent four seasons at Preston, but has been out-of-work since March and is now eager to return.
Neil Lennon, who was linked with a return to Hibs following Ross’ exit, remains in the Job Centre, for now. The 50-year-old won 10 trophies across to spells at Celtic, but more relevant to Kilmarnock he dipped into the Championship with Hibernian in 2016 and took the club to the title then 4th spot in the top-tier.
We can’t talk about a vacancy at Kilmarnock without mentioning Gary Holt; the club’s former cup-winning player who sports a memorable Killie tattoo - scroll down - and was the bookies’ favourite for the job back in February.
At the time Holt had only just become Falkirk’s new sporting director so nothing came to fruition, it’s a job he still holds - he briefly stepped in as interim manager in April - but it will be interesting to see whether he gets the itch to return to management should his former club come calling.
Holt managed Livingston to a magnificent 5th-placed Premiership finish in the 2019/20 campaign and previously finished 3rd in the Championship with Falkirk.
Could Kilmarnock dip into one of the lower leagues for their next manager?
Former Rangers youth coach Kevin Thomson has caught the eye over in League Two at Kelty Hearts who are flying high, and still unbeaten, at the summit of the table. An appointment would be a risk but he fits the bill as an exciting young coach and could well find himself in the conversation.
There have also been reports that former Ross County boss Stuart Kettlewell is interested in the vacancy (via Scottish Sun). The 37-year-old led the club's U20s to the SPFL Development League, before stepping up to take control of the club's senior side alongside Steve Ferguson. He then gained sole control up until his exit last Christmas, and has since been out-of-work.