|Kris Boyd was a goal machine for Kilmarnock last season - how will they cope without him?|
The alternatives were not all that enticing. Aberdeen offered European football - briefly, until they are inevitably knocked out by mid-August like all other Scottish clubs bar Celtic will be - but the only other differences between them and his club from last season would be a bigger crowd, some more league wins and maybe a shot at winning a cup. And as for staying at Kilmarnock? No chance.
Boyd only remained at Rugby Park last season because a better offer didn't come. He probably spent the whole of July 2013 staring desperately at his mobile phone, willing a call from an A. McCoist to come through. But I, like many, thought the former Scotland striker would prove an expensive luxury for a struggling Kilmarnock side; I haven't been more wrong about something since I voted for Danny Alexander at the last general election. Boyd was simply a behemoth last season. He scored 22 league goals. The rest of the Killie squad managed just 23 between them. Only once did they win a league game without him scoring. Five times - including in the decisive final two games of the season - he came up with the winning goal in a match.
Given that they only finished a dismal tenth even with him leading the attack, Kilmarnock would have been well and truly screwed without him.
And now they are without him.
It doesn't get much worse than losing your star player...unless you haven't really got anyone else. And, at the time of writing Kilmarnock have three - yes, three - players over the age of 21 under contract for next season; Craig Samson, Jamie Hamill (their sole summer signing) and Manuel Pascali. There are another nine youngsters who have varying degrees of first team experience. That's it. Thirteen players have left so far this summer, with another three (Tesselaar, Clingan and Eremenko) still to decide whether to spend another season in Ayrshire.
That's a lot of holes to fill in not very much time. And the man charged with filling them is Allan Johnston. In his first season at Kilmarnock, Johnston signed twelve players, including loanees (I'm not counting Samson and Antonio Reguero - both of whom were snapped up by Kenny Shiels). How many of them are still there? Err...none of them. They were either dreadful, or injured, or borrowed from other clubs. And how good is Johnston in the transfer market? Well, he thought Kyle Jacobs and Mark Stewart could do a job in the Scottish Premiership, and gave William Gros a three year deal. That ain't encouraging.
Killie are not the only ones who have a hell of a lot of rebuilding to do. Ross County have shed twelve players; St. Mirren have shifted eleven. In the last few seasons, it's been quite clear that the teams who have settled squads start the campaign so much better than those who are still gelling together - County would be an excellent example of that from 2013-14. And with newbies Dundee and Hamilton reinforcing considerably for their return to the top flight, the likes of Kilmarnock could be left with a lot of catching up to do after a month or two of action.