MICHAEL Johnston last night moved to quell suggestions that Kilmarnock are in financial difficulties after reports emerged that the club were to be served with a winding-up order over an unpaid debt of £16,000.

Craig Stevenson, the owner of Braehead Foods and a former Rugby Park season-ticket holder, claimed to have been pursuing an outstanding balance since Christmas and that he had instructed lawyers to act.

However Johnston, speaking in the aftermath of his club's 3-2 defeat at the hands of Dundee United, insisted the payment would be met in due course and pointed to the timing of the reports, just a few days before the club's AGM.

Loading article content

"There is no petition for winding up," the chairman said. "The club is not in danger of going in to liquidation or administration. This is a creditor who is obviously looking to get priority payment and it is unfortunate he has taken it in to the public domain. We will deal with it in the normal businesslike way.

"It may be that he is trying to maximise embarrassment for me and the club ahead of the AGM and that's unfortunate because we've supported him for many years and put hundreds of thousands of pounds his way because he is a local supplier."

Coming just days after manager Kenny Shiels conceded that other players could follow Michael Nelson and Liam Kelly out of Rugby Park before the month is out, and with the club carrying debts of around £10m, supporters were understandably alarmed by the reports.

However, even though Johnston insisted that the manager is under no pressure to sell players, Shiels queried the motives behind the reports. "There is no story," he said. "It's people trying to create negativity around a sport that gives the Scottish people something to look forward to."

Richard Winton