Let’s face it, we haven’t had too many high quality players in the past few years. However, we have been graced with a few who really know how play with that round thing, to say the least. Here counts down a list of the top five players who have worn the famous blue and white in the past decade.
One of the most consistent midfielders over the past few years, the 27 year old quickly became a fans favourite at Rugby Park. Kelly started his career at MK Dons, however after failing to break into the first team, he signed for us in 2010. He made his first start in a remarkable 4-4 draw with Dundee United. Only a few days later, he scored his first goal in a 3-0 Scottish Cup triumph over Inverness. Over the course of four years, Kelly pulled on the Killie jersey exactly 100 times. Although known for his great work rate and range of passing, he ended up notching 15 goals for us. During his spell at the club, he managed to make an appearance for the Scottish national side, coming on as a substitute for Charlie Mulgrew in a 2-1 friendly win over Luxembourg. Of course, Liam was part of the team who overcame the odds and beat Celtic in 2012, so he will always have a special place in our hearts.
Unfortunately due to injury, he played very little during the 2013-14 season and that summer signed with Oldham Athletic, who were managed by fellow cup winner Lee Johnson. Here he was immediately made captain and went on to make 78 appearances for them. He then signed for Layton Orient in 2016, for a deal thought to be around £200,000. However, in in Early February of this year, Kelly was given a six match ban for pushing a ball boy. It has been revealed in the past few days that Orient may end up having to fold, and so all of the players could be released. And with Liam looking for a club, who knows, we could be seeing him back at Rugby Park in the near future.
A point could be made for Bryson being a slightly improved version of the man above. Known as a ‘box to box’ midfielder, he was best known for his tireless running, something which endeared him greatly to the Killie faithful. He signed for us on a free transfer from Clyde in 2007, where he had played 95 games. He made his debut when he came on as a substitute in a 0-0 draw with StMirren in September of that year. He scored his first goal for the club in a 3-1 win against Aberdeen where he actually scored a double. He was awarded man of the match for that game and after the game Jim Jeffries said:
“Craig’s whole game was terrific and if he keeps playing like that we’ve got a real player on our hands. It was a top performance by him and for me he was the best player on the pitch by a mile.”
All told, Bryson played 118 games for us, scoring a total of 12 goals. His great form over the four seasons earned him a move to English Championship side Derby County. The fee for this was estimated to be around £450,000. Bryson was extremely happy with the move, saying:
“The move has come at the right time for me. I have been playing in the SPL for four years and it does get repetitive facing the same sides four times a season. It can get monotonous. With only one team going down and one coming up there is no freshness and everything is catered for the Old Firm. But in the Championship you are playing teams just twice a season and they are all massive clubs.”
He was a key player during his first season at Derby, earning him the fan’s Player of the Season award. Since that season, his career there has been hampered by injury but he has still racked up 201 appearances for the club, scoring 34 times. He also became the first Derby player to score a hat-trick against arch rivals Nottingham Forest. If there was ever a time when we need someone of Bryson’s stature, an energetic and creative box to box midfielder, it is certainly now.
This man certainly needs no introduction. Arguably the best player to come out of Killie, he will forever have a special place in our hearts. Haling from my own hometown of Stewarton, Stevie started his footballing education at local youth team Stewarton Annick. He began his career at Killie in 2004, where he made his debut as a sub in a game against Hibs in April. Naismith actually helped the under 19 side to win the Scottish Youth Cup that same season, beating Rangers in the final. His first senior goal was a long time coming, when he scored in a 2-2 draw with Hearts in February 2005. In the 2005-06 season, he featured much more regularly. All in all, he scored twelve goals and was named Scottish Football Writers Young Player of the year award. The highlight of that season, and one of the highlights of his time at the club was his hat-trick in the League Cup semi-final win over Falkirk.
All told, Stevie played 102 games for the club, scoring 29 goals. This kind of form led to plenty of interest from other clubs and in 2007, he signed for Rangers for around £1.9 million, penning his name just 19 seconds before the window closed. Naisy flourished at Ibrox, scoring 28 goals in 103 games. It was during this season that he made his breakthrough into the national team, where he would go on to score 6 goals in 43 games up to the present moment. In 2012, Naismith decided he did not want to stay with the ‘new club’, deciding instead to sign with English Premier League side Everton on a 4 year deal.
He made his debut as a sub in a 1-0 win over Manchester United, and scored his first goal in October against Liverpool. Naismith scored 8 goals in the 2013-14 season to help Everton finish in fifth, with the most points he has ever had in a Premier League season. Perhaps his greatest moment as a Toffee came when he scored a ‘perfect’ hat-trick against Chelsea, even though he only came on as a second half substitute. However, he only featured four times in the first half of the 2015-16 season, and moved to Norwich in January 2016 on a three and a half year deal. Overall, he scored 18 goals in 103 games for Everton. Naismith score his first Norwich goal in the memorable 5-4 loss to Liverpool, just four days after he signed.
Naisy is a great advocate of charitable work, and is an ambassador for Dyslexia Scotland. He has also supported the homeless in Liverpool and Glasgow. He also helps out financially in his hometown of Stewarton whenever he can. We can only dream of seeing Naisy and Boydy up top at Rugby Park again.
Easily the greatest keeper that we have had in the past decade, even if he has ended up in the championship. Bell was playing for local club Queen of the South when he was younger, before signing for Killie in 2002. He finally made his debut in a win over Motherwell in the final game of the 2008-09 season. He became first choice keeper the next season, due to a long term injury to regular goalie Alan Coombe. His greatest game as a Killie player came in the 2012 League Cup final, when he produced a man of the match display to win us the cup. In his five years as a senior player at the club, he made a total of 115 appearances. After years of transfer speculation, Bell finally joined Rangers in 2013. Of the move, he said:
“It’s been a long time coming for me. It’s great just to be here at a club of this size and a club I always followed as a youngster. It’s just a dream come true really.”
Bell was the first choice keeper as Rangers strolled to the first division title, however, he was injured for much of the next season. He returned in time to take part in the play off final against Motherwell. In the second leg, Bell made a horrible error which handed the premiership the side the opening goal, and they never looked back from there. The following season, Bell again sustained a long-term injury, losing his position to newcomer Wes Foderingam. He never really came back from this, and left the club that summer. He signed a two and a half year with Championship side Dundee United, after 43 appearances for Rangers. When at United, he managed to save three penalties in the one game, which became an internet sensation.
Eremenko comes from a family of top class footballers, so it’s no surprise that he has natural talent with the ball at his feet. Alexei played for a number of different clubs before joining Killie in 2010, including Leece and Metalist Kharkiv. He joined on loan from the latter in August 2012 until the end of the season. He scored an outrageous free-kick on his debut against StMirren. His immense skill and range of passing quickly made him a fans favourite, and there was hope that we would be able to keep him permanently. Over the course of the season, Eremenko scored four goals in 31 appearances.
After his loan spell ended, he had a number of top clubs interested in him, including Celtic, Rangers and Cardiff City. However, he rejected all of these clubs in favour of joining his brother Roman at Rubin Kazan. Here, he even played in the Champions League. When a move to Kairat didn’t work out after leaving Kazan in 2013, he re-joined Killie on a 6 month loan. At the end of this loan, he signed for the club on a one year contract. However after failing to agree on a new contract, he left the club in 2015, having scored 5 goals in 38 appearances in his second spell.
He is currently without a club after leaving Finnish club SJK last summer, and is currently working on his coaching badges. Maybe we’ll see him back at Rugby Park in a managerial role, who knows?
Do you agree with my ranking? Let me know. These are only my thoughts on the five best players of the past decade, but you may have someone else in mind, we each have a different definition of quality. Even though we have not had successes in the past decade that all Killie fans dream of, we have been graced by a couple of great players, and I’m sure there will be many more greats to come.