Steve Clarke: Kilmarnock boss hails Jose Mourinho as 'most influential' on his career

Steve Clarke and Jose Mourinho celebrate Chelsea's Premier League title victory in 2006
Steve Clarke and Jose Mourinho enjoyed a trophy-laden few years together at Chelsea

Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke has hailed Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho as the biggest influence on his coaching career.

Clarke, 54, was Mourinho's assistant as Chelsea won two league titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups in three years.

The Scot's own managerial stock has risen this season after presiding over a transformation in Killie's fortunes.

"The most influential would be Jose. Those years were great - it worked out really well," Clarke told BBC Scotland.

"I picked up a lot from Jose, in terms of organisation and working with intensity - working with intensity every day."

Clarke was an assistant with Newcastle, Chelsea, West Ham and Liverpool before taking his first manager's job with West Bromwich Albion, leading them to an eighth-placed finish in the Premier League in 2013 - their best since 1981.

But the former St Mirren and Chelsea full-back, who won six caps for Scotland, left the Midlands club midway through the following season, and was sacked by English Championship outfit Reading after a year.

Steve Clarke encourages his Kilmarnock team
Kilmarnock have lost only four of their 29 league matches since Clarke took over

A surprise appointment at Kilmarnock given his vast experience at higher-profile clubs, Clarke has engineered a remarkable revival at the Ayrshire club.

They were bottom of the table with just three points from eight games when previous boss Lee McCulloch departed on 1 October 2017, but have lost just four of their 29 Premiership matches under Clarke and risen to fifth place.

Clarke was a candidate to succeed Gordon Strachan as Scotland head coach before Alex McLeish took over.

"Would I be able to turn the Scotland job down? At this stage, yes, because I still feel a bit unfulfilled as a club manager," Clarke said.

"For me it is a job I would be interested in but not at this stage, because I still feel I have got a bit to learn as a manager.

"This is only my third managerial job."

A feature of Kilmarnock's recovery has been their displays against Scotland's biggest teams - they have beaten Celtic at home and drawn away, and beaten Rangers home and away.

"We have got attacking players, people who want to score goals," Clarke added. "If you are asking [veteran striker] Kris Boyd to run around and defend, you might as well not play him.

"You have to get him in the box, and if you are getting Kris in the box, you have to get the ball in the box.

Kris Boyd and Steve Clarke pictured with their Player of the Month and Manager of the Month awards for December
Kris Boyd, 34, has enjoyed a renaissance under Clarke, scoring 21 goals this season

"You always need to go onto the pitch with an intent to score goals. When you go to Celtic Park, Ibrox, Pittodrie, Easter Road and Tynecastle, those teams must feel they have to be careful at the back.

"If they don't have that fear that they are going to concede a goal, they will just attack you and attack you and eventually they will score themselves."

'Job satisfaction as important as the big pay check'

While Kilmarnock are now seven points adrift of fourth-placed Hibernian - and a possible Europa League spot - after their 11-match unbeaten run came to an end at Aberdeen on Saturday, it was only a fourth defeat of Clarke's tenure.

Born in the nearby coastal town of Saltcoats, where he currently lives, Clarke has revelled in engineering an upturn in fortunes at Killie, where his elder brother Paul played over 350 games from 1975 to 1986.

"When I was young I used to come here and watch my brother play, so I knew the level of support Kilmarnock could get," said Clarke, who recently picked up a third consecutive Premiership manager of the month award.

"They said they were looking for a bit of stability, and that was the bit that captured my imagination.

"It is a town that looks to have a bit of an identity with their football club and that had drifted. I thought I could make a small difference.

"There is a connection now between the team and the supporters and that is really important.

"I have had the high money and big pressure - positions where you knew what was going to come with the job.

"Job satisfaction is every bit as important as the big pay check at the end of the day."

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