WINNING, it seems, isn't everything for Kenny Shiels.
The build-up to tomorrow's Scottish Communities League Cup final has given the Kilmarnock manager a chance to recall his past glories and, while he remains misty eyed about what he has achieved, it is to the future he continues to look.
Since stepping out of the sizeable shadow of Mixu Paatelainen when the Finn left Rugby Park a year ago, Shiels' football philosophy and outspoken nature have marked him apart from many of his peers in the Clydesdale Bank Premier League. The Northern Irishman has the chance to further differentiate himself from the pack by leading his side to victory at Hampden but, there are other ways to determine success for Shiels.
Loading article content
"Sunday is the short-term fix because what is the be-all and end-all for a football club? It's to bring enjoyment to the community," Shiels said. "You can do that by playing in an attractive way and getting to the final of a trophy. There is only one non-city club [Livingston] to have won a trophy [since the SPL started in 1999]. That's remarkable.
"So what are the aspirations of St Johnstone, St Mirren, Kilmarnock, Motherwell? Is it to win trophies? They haven't won any for a while. So the aspiration must be to provide a focal point for the community, to build a rapport with people who are proud to support the team. Sunday is an opportunity to do that. A great opportunity. We've got an identity with each other, 12,000 or so people going there from the one parish to support their team – and they're really proud of that team. That is a big satisfaction."
Shiels was the obvious yet risky choice to replace Paatelainen when the Finn opted to take up the challenge of managing his national side. Having made the transition from assistant, Shiels has stuck to the passing game that he and Paatelainen brought to the club. His methods have often been questioned, but the 55-year-old remains resolute in his approach.
"I am sure there are people at every club who doubt everybody," he said. "There are people that are doubters and there are people who believe in you and have faith in you and support that faith. The most important person to believe in what you are doing is yourself and, without that, it doesn't matter if someone else believes in you."
Victory tomorrow would not only prove Shiels' point but repay the faith Michael Johnston, the Kilmarnock chairman, has shown in him. Shiels has spoken about how the final was for the players in his squad, such as club stalwarts James Fowler and Garry Hay, and injured captain Manuel Pascali, but Johnston falls into the same category.
"It's for Michael Johnston, who has been slaughtered for some reason," Shiels added. "If he had been chairman of Rangers, I can't see them being in their current position. His management of the other part of the club has been really good.
"Why does the chairman get stick? His background? He lives in Ayr, maybe. Because he's not going down the local for a beer with the boys? What do people like in other people? They like mirror images. They like to say, 'He's not a bad lad, he takes a drink. He's not a bad lad, he's a Jack The Lad'. Or it's, 'I don't like him, he doesn't mix with us'. I think jealousy could be a big part of it."