Kilmarnock 'will be a target next season' - Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke in the Kilmarnock technical area
Steve Clarke has led Kilmarnock to their first top-six finish in seven years

Manager Steve Clarke believes Kilmarnock will be seen as a target by their top-six Scottish Premiership rivals next season.

Killie sat bottom of the table when Clarke took charge in October, but ended the campaign fifth, with a club-record top-flight points haul of 59.

And the former Reading boss believes replicating that success will become even harder next term.

"I'm guarded about next season," said Clarke, 54.

"All the big clubs with bigger budgets than ours will improve. The teams on similar budgets who finished below us will want to finish above us next year, so we'll be a little target for them.

"I'm sure they'll all be saying to themselves, 'if Kilmarnock can do it then we can too'.

"So we know it will be tougher next year."

Clarke has contracted the bulk of his squad for next season and is still hopeful star midfielder Youssouf Mulumbu will opt against chasing more lucrative offers elsewhere in favour of another year at Rugby Park.

Steve Clarke speaks to Youssouf Mulumbu during Kilmarnock's match against Celtic in Glasgow
Clarke signed Mulumbu, with whom he worked at West Bromwich Albion, on a short-term deal in November

But the Scottish Football Writers' Association manager of the year admits his modest budget means he will have to bide his time before finalising summer recruitment.

"We're not a club that can attack the market with money and tie up players early," Clarke said. "I think we'll be waiting to see who goes where and who is available later.

"I've got a small budget so I don't want to use it all up and then find a couple of great opportunities turn up in August and I have no scope left to do anything.

"We'll try to be careful and clever and put together a competitive squad.

"It's very difficult to sit here and say all these players are staying because we can't do that. We're not in a position to do that.

"We'll wait and see what happens over the summer and we'll be ready to react if we have to react."

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