Lee Clark: Kilmarnock appoint former Blackpool manager

Kilmarnock's Lee McCulloch, Lee Clark and Peter Leven
Lee McCulloch (left) and Peter Leven (right) will stay to assist Lee Clark at Kilmarnock

Lee Clark has signed a three-and-a-half-year contract to be the new Kilmarnock manager and says his priority is to stay in the top flight.

But the 43-year-old former Huddersfield Town, Birmingham City and Blackpool boss is also eyeing a top-six place.

"Once the short-term goal is achieved, obviously the main objective is to stay in this division, then we can build the club," said the Englishman.

"Hopefully we can challenge for those European spots in the future."

Clark takes over from Gary Locke, who resigned last month following the 1-0 home defeat by Hamilton Academical and with his team involved in a battle to avoid relegation from the Scottish Premiership.

The former Newcastle United, Sunderland and Fulham midfielder resigned as Blackpool boss in May after their relegation from the English Championship following a run of only three wins in 33 games under Clark's tenure.

"It is the longest period since I've left school I've been out the game, but there was time for me to reflect and see what's gone right, what's gone wrong and wait for the right opportunity and I feel this is the right opportunity," he told BBC Scotland.

"It's all dependent on the next couple of months, but I see lots of positive things we can achieve.

"The infrastructure is there, the possibilities are there to certainly have the club challenging in the top half when the season splits and have the possibility to compete for the European places.

"They have a tremendous ethos of developing young players and I see the squad just now is full of young talented players."

Clark had been assistant at Norwich City in 2008 when he moved to Huddersfield, where he missed out twice on promotion from League One via the play-offs before being sacked after four years in charge of the Terriers.

He took over at Championship side Birmingham in 2012, but he suffered an 18-match run without a home win in season 2013-14, only managing to lead his side clear of relegation in their final game of the season and was sacked after a poor start to the following campaign.

"Experience of ups and downs in the game, challenges of keeping teams in the division wherever I've competed and I've also been successful," he said when asked what he made him a good choice as Kilmarnock manager.

"I'm a keen observer of all football and, during my management career, I've signed a lot of players from up here in Scotland, so I've watched a lot of football here.

"My recruitment teams have been regular visitors up to this part of the world to watch players, so I know quite a lot about it."

Under caretaker manager Lee McCulloch, Kilmarnock moved out of the bottom two with victory over Motherwell on Saturday and Clark said it was important that the former Scotland international and first-team coach Peter Leven remained as his backroom team.

"They can give me a quick insight into what the club, the players and the league are like so I can hit the ground running as we only have a short period of time to make us successful and stay in the division," said Clark.

The new manager will watch from the stands as the Ayrshire side host Rangers in Tuesday's Scottish Cup fifth-round replay before taking charge fully for Saturday's Premiership visit by Dundee.