Pat Nevin knows what it’s like to over-achieve with Kilmarnock, having been a key part of the side which finished fourth in 1997/98, their highest finish since they were last champions of Scotland in 1965.

He also knows Steve Clarke, the current manager at Rugby Park, as well as anyone in football, having played alongside him through the various age groups with Scotland as well as being team-mates at Chelsea in the 1980s.

As a result, the impact Clarke has made since succeeding Lee McCulloch at the helm of the Ayrshire club 14 months ago has excited him and he believes that this success story could yet reach a startling conclusion.

Killie go into tomorrow’s match against champions Celtic at Parkhead as league leaders and, with Brendan Rodgers still waiting for his first win against Clarke after four attempts, Nevin claims that the likelihood of the 55-year-old taking the title outside Glasgow for the first time in 34 years can’t be discounted.

“Can they do a Leicester? It’s massively unlikely but it is possible,” he said. “I don’t want to put them under that much pressure - they would need to have a lot of luck with injuries because they don’t have the biggest squad.

“Steve’s working with a bottom-six budget but I still believe he can guide them to a top-two finish. However, it would take a superhuman effort to finish first – that would be an even bigger achievement than Leicester’s.

“I still can’t see past Celtic, with the resources they have, finishing first yet again. The other clubs have so much more money than Kilmarnock and you also have to look back to 1985 when anyone other than Celtic or Rangers last won the title – although Aberdeen also had an extra-special manager in Alex Ferguson, didn’t they?

“It’s already extraordinary that Clarkie has taken Kilmarnock to first place in December but it would be truly remarkable if they finished there. I’m surprised that that’s happened but I can’t say I’m shocked.

“Like most neutrals, I’d love to go on and see them win it because it would be a great story.”

By regularly covering the biggest games in England for the BBC, Nevin mixes with football's movers and shakers and stressed that they have been impressed by the work Clarke has done in Scotland.

“I talk to a lot of people at various clubs in England and they’re well aware of how well Clarkie is doing,” said Nevin.

“He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the business – Ruud Gullit, Sir Bobby Robson, Jose Mourinho, Gianfranco Zola, Kenny Dalglish and Roberto Di Matteo – and that’s not a coincidence.

“Every one of them rated him highly. Steve was never just a bibs-and-cones man – he understands the game and he can communicate with players, which sounds obvious but not all coaches and managers can do that.

“He lets everyone know what’s wanted and expected of them and doesn’t try to put square pegs in round holes – and, again, that’s not as common as you’d think.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few of the top players that he’s worked with and they all tell you that he’s got something.

“So he’s well thought of in England and my concern for Killie is that he could be offered a job by one of the mid-ranking Premier League clubs – and I say that not because he couldn’t work for one of the top six but because British bosses don’t get given those opportunities.”

Nevin also contends that Clarke would be the obvious choice to replace Rodgers if and when he decides to leave the treble winners.

“The other worry is that if – for whatever reason - Brendan Rodgers was to leave Celtic, then he would be the obvious replacement for him,” he said.

“Steve has European experience and he’s coached and managed at a high level plus he knows how to get the most out of the players he works with, so he would tick every box for Celtic.

“Plus he grew up supporting them – when we were at Stamford Bridge the Celtic result was always the first one we would look for after our game was finished on a Saturday afternoon.”