I hope you have all had a good summer and enjoyed the warmer weather without being too badly impacted by Covid. It's a bit of a marathon report this time after the summer break, but I have tried to give a flavour of the amount of work going on during the close season, and also the range of community involvement by the Club, which has really ramped up again with the lifting of pandemic restrictions.
It's been great to see fans back in the stadium for our Cup matches after the close season break. As members will be aware, the first team squad had a pre - season week at Largs, followed by a trip to Spain, where matches took place against Lincoln Red Imps and Charlton Athletic. Matches were also played against Queen of the South (behind closed doors) and Dunfermline.
Thanks to the fans who made the long journeys to Fraserburgh and Montrose, as well as turning out at home for the Cup matches against Partick Thistle and Stenhousemuir. With a number of injuries to contend with, the squad dug in and provided a strong finish. Although disappointed that we didn’t top the group, the main objective was to move into the next round, which, as the Manager has said in interviews, will feel more like a Cup competition than the group stages did, especially as we now know we will line up against Hearts at Tynecastle!
Meantime I'm sure we are all looking forward to 'flag day' tomorrow when we kick off the new season against Dundee Utd!
The Manager has been consistent in his regular media and post-match interviews about his desire to build a squad that can compete in the top league. He hopes to add further players to the squad in addition to those familiar faces who have returned to Killie and the new players who have already joined. The backroom team has also been strengthened with additional capacity in analysis and physio, with a revamp of recruitment and scouting also under way.
As members will recall, the Club took some difficult staffing decisions when the Covid pandemic first emerged, and throughout the championship season the non-football staff team continued in those limited numbers. With a return to the top league plus changes in the Youth Academy set up and the new league for the Women's Team under auspices of the SPFL, it was important to review capacity and structure.
Head of Football Operations James Fowler left the club having decided that he preferred to seek a new challenge elsewhere, and we wish him and his family well for whatever comes next.
Head of Media Scott McClymont also departed after 5 years at the club having secured a position with a charity, which will allow his career to develop. Again, we wish him well and I know he is looking forward to returning to Rugby Park as a season ticket holder!
At time of writing the recruitment process has not been fully completed for all appointments, and the Club will give an update on the restructured staff team once all are in place.
Also on the football side:
Hear from Jim Chapman here
The Women’s Fixture List can be found here
Anyone wishing to sponsor a player shirt should contact [email protected]
A number of fans contacted me regarding the possibility of an Open Day ahead of season staring. We did consider this, but with the fixtures falling as they did and being in the middle of recruitment on both the playing side and club staff, it was felt that it would not be feasible to anything of scale at that time.
We therefore prioritised building on community connections and focussing on young people in particular, getting the Championship Trophy out and about.
The 'Trophy Tour' which was carried out by KCST saw 5925 young people across schools in East and North Ayrshire get to see the cup up close, which will hopefully spark interest amongst kids who have not yet been to Rugby Park as well as those who are already Killie fans!
We have generally been working hard via the Club, the Killie Trust and KCST to encourage children and young people to get involved in supporting the Club. It has been very heartening to see the rise in Season Tickets for young people and we very much hope that the Season Ticket Youth Pathway will get young people continuing to support the club at various stages in their lives.
Thanks to generous donations by Killie Trust members and other Killie fans, the Moffat Safe Standing Area and rows immediately in front, will now mostly be given over to the Secondary School Supporters' Groups. Trust Chair Jim Thomson and I met with representatives from the groups, including teachers and students, to discuss how best to allocate places, and it was agreed that schools themselves would take this on. Additional free tickets will be made available as before to local groups and also to primary schools, via KCST. As Trust members will know, we believe that our safe standing area within a family stand is pretty unique and, with the changing of regulations in England set to allow more safe standing at matches there, our own safe standing has again attracted some interest.
The Club worked with young fans to support their plans for the 'TIFO' card display at the final league match last season. We have again supported their ideas for the opening match of the season and will continue to work with them on ways of creating the kind of atmosphere which will add to the match day experience.
KCST activities have increased. The Summer Programme started with the launch of KCST ‘Fitba First’ programme which welcomed 30 P6s-S2s, mostly from Onthank Primary and St. Joseph's Academy, along to the stadium every day for breakfast, free football, First Aid and defibrillator training, and a healthy, player's lunch prepared by the club's chefs.
Since Fitba First, KCST has been delivering our 'Killie Masterclass' (for 12-18 age group) and 'Summer Champions' (for 5-12 age group) football camps at Ayrshire College. For the Summer Champions, each day between 110 -140 local kids along each day. Each one received a free, healthy lunch thanks to West FM Cash for Kids.
Our Refugee Inclusion programme continues to flourish with a group of up to 8 youngsters originally from Syria and Afghanistan coming along to Rugby Park every Monday with their families to enjoy free football and to feel part of the football club. On 27th July we surprised 32 Ukrainian young people with some Killie kit of their own and games on the pitch!
Alongside the Summer Football programme, KCST's Hexagol sessions took place at the Johnnie Walker Estate Gala, and the Ayrshire Athletics Arena on Tues 26th July. It will be at:
The Football Memories group continues to grow, with 41 participants at the last event where Ross Mathie and the group discussed the Tartan Army through generations and heard some of his stories from involvement with the Scotland National Team. The group meets on the first Monday of each month, with weekly Killie drop-ins also at the Alzheimer Scotland Resource Centre every other Monday.
The next Football Memories event is on Monday 1 August when the Group will visit the Scottish Football Museum at Hampden. For more information on any of these events, or if you would like to join or volunteer, please email [email protected]
The very popular 'Weigh to Go' is coming back after a hugely successful block of men’s and women’s programmes, culminating in a game of Walking Football between the groups vs Jack Sanders, Zach Hemming and Chris Stokes! Sign-ups are now open with the deadline for registrations on 29thJuly at 12pm.
Women's group is led by Mairi Mackenzie: LINK
Men's group is led by Daryl Knapp: LINK
Future programmes to look forward to include:
The Junior Killie Trust has been launched, including the Squirrel Club for the youngest fans. There will be a range of membership benefits and activities on offer, including the chance to be a match mascot, and a kids' Christmas Party. Between the Schools Supporters Clubs and the Junior Trust, this also gives the Club a way of engaging and consulting younger fans about their views.
As well as reaching out to young people, we have also been working to ensure that all of our fan base feels included within the Club. I hosted a Forum in the Champions Lounge for Women Trust members, where we discussed how some simple improvements could be made to the facilities, merchandise and travelling to enable more women to be involved. I have committed to a quarterly meeting for women supporters and information on the next meeting will be circulated via the Trust.
Dates for all member forums, and also an online meeting for 'Killie Exiles' are being finalised and will be circulated via the Killie Trust.
The date for the On Board In Person event with the Manger will also be circulated for those who had signed up to the event which had to be postponed. The Manager did a Q and A at the KFCSA AGM which I also attended. We will also be looking at future OBIP events, so any suggestions for those please let us know!
Trust Board member Robert Foster has been working with Fans Supporting Foodbanks Scotland, which launched on 12 July. Clubs who have so gave initial backing to the initiative include ourselves at Kilmarnock FC, along with Celtic, Partick Thistle, Dundee and Dundee Utd. The Trust and the Club will be working together to support regular collections at home matches. Planning is under way for the first collection at Rugby Park If anyone is interested in being involved, please let me know!
During the summer months the Trust Board has continued to work on our internal review of Trust activities, and mission future mission, with support from Trust Board member Martin Boyle. With the Trust’s 20th Anniversary coming up next year, the Trust Board will be finalising recommendations for discussion with members, so that we can agree both short- and longer-term priorities. Further information will be sent out by the Trust Board.
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