By Craig Turnbull
Kilmarnock have released three first-team players as manager Lee Clark’s rebuilding process gets underway.
Defenders Lee Ashcroft and Mark Connolly and midfielder Craig Slater have all left Rugby Park on Monday and more is expected.
Clark promised “big” changes at Killie over the summer and said he had to be “ruthless” after they preserved their Premiership status following a 4-1 aggregate play-off win over Championship side Falkirk.
Slater has decided to leave the club with his contract set to expire after a promising season from the 22-year-old, who impressed in a side which largely underperformed.
Ashcroft has also left Rugby Park after six years at the club and more changes are expected on the way.
Mark Connolly has also left the club.
“There’s going to be big changes and that’s not being disrespectful to the lads who produced a fantastic performance for me,” Clark said following the win over Falkirk.
“You’ve got to be ruthless I know where I want to be, I know where I want to go and we’ve started negotiations with players.”
Been a good 6 years at the club, happy to finish on a high, met some great people & friends for life, all the best!! pic.twitter.com/jJDxbq8pri
— Lee Ashcroft (@LeeAshcroft5) May 23, 2016
Clark admitted the play-off was a warning for the players and his vision for the club is to stop battling relegation and start competing at the top end of the table.
“I said to them after the game to go and celebrate what you’ve done but it’s a warning signal to everyone connected with the club,” he said.
“The club have been loitering around this position for too long, if you keep doing that eventually you get found out and the worst case scenario happens. That has to be addressed and we have to move forward.”
— Craig Slater (@craigslaterr) May 23, 2016
He added: “I’m more than a firefighter.
“I took Huddersfield from nothing to a club in the Championship that went 43 games unbeaten. I unearthed gems. I’m more than just a firefighter manager I’ve got more than that in my locker.
“Why can’t we emulate a Motherwell or my big pal at St Johnstone who’s been brilliant over the last few years. I don’t expect there to be a budget of a Celtic, Rangers, Hearts or Aberdeen.
“I’m not crazy, I’m realistic but they’ve shown consistently that it can be done if the recruitment is right and you bring the right mentality and I believe that I can do that.”
Thank you everyone ???????????????? pic.twitter.com/dAsZyxWNbZ
— Mark Connolly (@Mark5Connolly) May 23, 2016