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St Mirren v Kilmarnock: Bell offers ringing approval of winter break

Cammy Bell has a tendency to look so relaxed between his posts that it was maybe a little mischievous of him to suggest he was keen to put his feet up during the winter break.

Cammy Bell has caught the eye with a series of assured performances and is in talks over a new five-year deal
Cammy Bell has caught the eye with a series of assured performances and is in talks over a new five-year deal

The Clydesdale Bank Premier League will bring the shutters down tomorrow to try and protect the fixture list from the vagaries of the weather, with play suspended until January 19.

The Kilmarnock goalkeeper will have enough to occupy his mind given he is in talks over a new five-year contract, while his general state of mind will be informed by whatever result his side come away with from the trip to face St Mirren this afternoon. Kilmarnock have punctured the assumption that consistency is the most elusive quality to their team having gone four matches without defeat – a run burnished by wins over Aberdeen and Hearts – and adding a fifth would allow them to remain based in the top six going into the break.

That form might suggest that the brief winter shutdown is untimely but energy needed to maintain it has also taken its toll. Manuel Pascali and Mohamadou Sissoko are both expected to miss out, while Danny Racchi, Garry Hay and William Gros have all been out of action for some time. The break brings a welcome reprieve, then, and Bell is confident his side will make the most of the opportunity to recharge before returning to pursue a European place.

"I think everyone welcomes the break," said the Kilmarnock goalkeeper. "This will give us a chance to step away from football and to recharge our batteries. Once we come back it'll spur the league on and I think the SPL has been fantastic this season. I know we've been on a good run but I'm sure we can pick up where we've left off once we get back into training.

"I won't lie, by the time you get to Christmas you'll have guys who have been playing on with niggling injuries for months. It'll give us a rest mentally as well because we'll be able to relax for five or six days. Hopefully, it'll be good for the Scottish game and, when we come back, the teams will continue playing the good football they've shown already."

It is a sentiment which resonates deeply with Kilmarnock given the club's efforts to marry attractive performances to success. It is a principle which the squad have all bought into and Bell seems content when discussing the prospect of committing his long-term future to Rugby Park.

The Scotland internationalist has attracted interest from Rangers in the past and the opening of another transfer window will likely mean his name will be mentioned in dispatches once more, but he is wary of allowing talk of his future to disrupt his concentration.

"It's happened to me before when I've been linked with moves and that did bother me but I've learned from that," said Bell, whose side have sent youngsters Gary Fisher and Ross Davidson on loan to Hamilton Academical and Airdrie United, respectively. "Now I know to ignore it and to just get on with it and enjoy my football. I just want to keep playing well for Kilmarnock for the rest of the season and to bring success to this club.

"I'm currently holding talks with Kilmarnock. They've offered me a five-year contract so we're just trying to iron a few things out. Hopefully, things will be sorted out soon."

St Mirren have already sorted out the immediate future of Conor Newton, after the 21-year-old Newcastle United midfielder completed his loan deal for the remainder of the season, and he will make his debut against Kilmarnock this afternoon. He has joined a side just three points behind their visitors in the league table, although their positions look very different. St Mirren lie low in 10th but an encouraging sequence of recent results has given them hope of climbing into the top half of the division.

"I think we could be higher," said Craig Samson, the St Mirren goalkeeper. "We started really well but went through a really bad spell when we weren't getting the rub of the green and losing games that we didn't feel we deserved to lose. Hopefully that bad spell is behind us now and we are back in the pack of the teams above us."

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