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"Warburton is tactically naive" - interview with a Killie fan ahead of Rangers cup tie

GTBFO sat down and interviewed Russell Abercrombie ahead of the Kilmarnock game to talk about his feeble, puny team and whether they can keep the score down to single figures against Rangers on Saturday.

Jeff Holmes/Getty Images

Rangers take on Kilmarnock at the weekend, so we decided to seek out Russell Abercrombie, a Kilmarnock podcaster and Daily Record blogger, for his take on the matter at hand.

We apologise for both his wrong opinions on Mr Warburton and his unfortunate initialism.

GTBFO: First things first - How have our old friends Jig, Boydy and Stevie been getting along?

RA: It has been a mixed bag, for sure.

We started the season with Stevie Smith at left-back, and as Rangers fans will know he doesn't have the legs for that role any longer. After bringing in Kevin McHattie, Smith was moved to central midfield where he has thrived, much to the bemusement of most. He came off injured early on against Dundee United, and his tackling was sorely missed against Hamilton in what proved to be Gary Locke's final game in charge. He is a doubt for the cup game at Ibrox.

Kris Boyd's return was well received among Killie fans, given his legendary status at the club. Kris retained good ties with Kilmarnock after re-joining Rangers, and still returned to Rugby Park every week to pull on a Killie training top and coach our Under 16's. Something which was a strange sight for anyone that happened to be around the stadium at one of those times. Thanks in part to the form of Josh Magennis however, Boyd's game-time has been severely limited to the odd start and substitute appearance. He has still chipped in with a crucial goal or two though, and he still remains a dangerous threat to bring off the bench.

Lee McCulloch's addition didn't go down as well... Once the initial shock, awe and anger subsided, it actually looks like a pretty shrewd appointment. He was never going to be signed as a first-team regular (in fact, his only appearance this season has been for 41 minutes against Ross County) and was brought to the club to focus on coaching. I had the chance to chat with him at one of the pre-season matches, and his outlook on how the game should be played was night-and-day to that of his on-field persona. He believes in passing, attacking football which makes you wonder why he wasn't offered a role in Mark Warburton's back-room set-up. He'll take charge of the game at Ibrox, but has reiterated that he doesn't feel ready to take the job on permanently so we can rule him out of the running for the full-time gig.

GTBFO: Do you think you'll be able to stay up? What scenario are you envisioning if you end up in the playoff spot?

RA: I am still confident that we have more than enough about us to stay up this season. Gary Locke's departure has lifted a cloud from over Rugby Park, and if the board can make a sensible appointment such as Billy Davies then we have a strong enough squad to catch at least one from Hamilton, Motherwell, Partick Thistle or even Inverness.

If we do end up in the play-off spot, we won't be returning to Ibrox in my opinion. Rangers' lead looks insurmountable to me, and the Championship's representative in the play-off will be either Falkirk or Hibernian. Given our history of breaking Bairns' hearts in important games, I'd fancy us to have enough to see them off over two legs; however Hibs will still be smarting over Kris Boyd's half-volley at Easter Road that truly set the ball rolling in Terry Butcher's quest to relegate them a few seasons back, and will have revenge on their minds.

As I said previously though, I don't imagine we'll end up in eleventh place come the end of the season.

GTBFO: How do you rate your chances of a win on Saturday, given that Rangers were so vulnerable on the counter-attack against St. Johnstone (although have now sorted this out according to Mr Warburton)?

RA: This is an eminently winnable game for Killie.

In my opinion, Mark Warburton is tactically very naive, and is benefiting from his predecessors being so absolutely dreadful that he appears God-like in comparison. The same happened at Killie when Mixu Paatelainen came in after the latter Jefferies years (and few months of Calderwood). His style of football was night-and-day with what we put up with before, so he was elevated as a result. Who knows how Mixu would have done in his second season had he stayed? His signings were pretty guff, and he's not exactly set the heather alight in Helsinki or Dundee since.

Warburton seems to indulge in the delusion that Rangers are still to be feared. Instead of altering his tactical outlook when facing tougher sides he believes that Rangers are far too good and should impose themselves on others. At times that'll work of course (Hibernian at Ibrox in the most recent league encounter e.g.) but it also leaves the opportunity for the opponent to take advantage (St Johnstone in the League Cup). We all know Rangers' full-backs will maraud forward at will, and we have the capabilities in wide areas to exploit that significantly. Any two from Kiltie, Higginbotham, McKenzie, Frizzell (heck, even Obadeyi if he has one of those days) will cause Rangers plenty of issues in behind. Magennis will ragdoll any two from Wilson, Kiernan, Ball if we give him the same supply we've been doing this season, and with his link-up play being good he can hopefully bring those wide men into the game quickly when Wallace or Tavernier are out of position.


We desperately needed a right-back, and brought Northern Irish international Lee Hodson in on 'Deadline Day'. He will likely slot into a defence that can one day keep out Celtic, and then the next lose five to Partick Thistle. Hopefully having a genuine right-back in the team, rather than a centre-back or midfielder masquerading as one will help our shape. Certainly away from home our defence was more solid generally (until the Tannadice debacle) but it'll be a good test for them going up against guys like Waghorn. Smith in midfield, if he makes it, will hopefully be desperate to show what he can do since moving into central midfield.

A Killie success though depends on McCulloch not falling into the aforementioned trap of giving Rangers too much respect, like Allan Johnston did in our 3-0 defeat at Ibrox last season. If we play the way we know we're capable of then we have every chance of coming away with a win. If we sit back and let Rangers come on to us then we could easily be picked off. I think that McCulloch will go for it, but you can never be too sure. At the end of the day, if we lose after having given it a go then we'll have just gone out to the team with a budget that is ten-times (at least) ours, and we can then focus on the truly important task of trying to stay in the division come May.

GTBFO: How are the young prospects at Killie getting along? Obviously there's Greg Kiltie, but what about McKenzie, Johnston, O'Hara et al?


RA: Our youth development programme is one of the areas we as Kilmarnock fans can be most proud of the club. It was during Jefferies' time in charge that we last fielded a team with no player we developed taking part, which speaks volumes for the work done by youth supremo Alan Robertson. During our win in the previous round in Perth for example, we fielded six academy graduates in the starting eleven.


Greg Kiltie signing a contract extension has been a huge positive in a season of lows. He is a supremely gifted footballer, and easily the most naturally talented I've seen come through at Rugby Park since Naismith. Rory McKenzie has struggled to feature regularly through injury, however when he does make it his pace and directness always troubles defences in Scotland. Chris Johnston unfortunately suffered a bad injury at the start of the season, and is unlikely to return to first-team action for a while yet.


Mark O'Hara is a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The first thing you noticed about Mark when he broke into the team at 16 years-old was just how calm in possession he was. He was brought in as cover at full-back thanks to his versatility, but what was once his raison d'etre has started to become more of his downfall. He is constantly shoved from pillar-to-post, filling in wherever he is needed and never getting a run of games in what is his natural position of defensive midfield. He is still a talented kid though, and I have high hopes he'll be a standout player for Kilmarnock in the coming years.


Outwith the players mentioned above, Adam Frizzell has started to feature regularly and looks promising. A hard-working, skillfull winger by trade, he has played in behind the striker at times and shone in that role. The France '98 World Cup was one of my first real memories of international football, and Frizzell was yet to be born when that tournament ended, which makes me feel ridiculously old. Elsewhere, Lee Ashcroft at centre-back is a decent back-up at this level, although looks suspect when asked to play a successive period of games and I'd expect him to leave in the summer. Craig Slater is the creative spur in our midfield, and we'd be in a far worse position if it wasn't for the Scotland Under 21 regular.

GTBFO: Can you please take Coisty in? The man needs something to do. Have a heart.

RA: No.

You can follow Russell on Twitter at @RussAbercrombie. Please do not subejct him to mindless abuse, call him a know-nothing diddy, threaten to put his windaes in, and so forth. He knows not what he does.