On Saturday, Kilmarnock traveled to Paisley and lost 2-0 to St Mirren in a relatively important match in the battle to avoid the inauguratory relegation play-off spot.
There were no red cards (well, Jim Goodwin was suspended after all) and no real moments of controversy. In the grand scheme of things, it was a relatively run-of-the-mill Premiership encounter, in which one team wanted it more than the other and ran out victorious as a result.
Take a cursory glance at social media or Scottish football forums however, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was in-fact a local derby or a league decider.
Over the last few seasons, a forced rivalry has been created by supporters on either side. There were reports of a flashpoint between a small section of rival supporters at a local train station after the final whistle, and some Killie fans had brought smoke bombs into the stadium and were arrested as a result.
One prominent St.Mirren poster on a popular Scottish football forum said: “I f**king hate Killie.”
One of the reasons for this is surely the perennial underachievement of both sides’ traditional rivals, Ayr United and Greenock Morton.
Kilmarnock and St.Mirren fans have both been starved of real derby matches of late, with Kilmarnock’s last competitive Ayrshire Derby being the League Cup Semi-Final of 2012; and the last competitive Renfrewshire Derby being in 2011. Before that, St Mirren and Morton last met in the Challenge Cup of 2006. The last league meetings between the sides was in season 1999/2000; and the last Ayrshire league derby was in season 1990/1991. It would then be only natural to long for a match to liven up the usual mundane Premiership season.
But why Kilmarnock? And why St Mirren?
From a Kilmarnock perspective, I don’t quite understand it. We are clubs with more in common than anything else, and are both of a relatively similar size. Look at the similarities – both sides have won the League Cup in recent seasons; both are based in towns where the majority of the population support Rangers or Celtic rather than their local side; both have lower league rivals that are far weaker; and (until this season anyway) both Kilmarnock and St Mirren favoured an attacking, possession based style of play.
As far as I’m concerned, I have a respect for St.Mirren and believe we can learn from how their club has been run in recent years. I don’t ‘hate’ their fans, or feel intimidated by their team on the pitch. Other than Scotland’s second most hated man, Jim Goodwin, there isn’t really much to dislike about St Mirren.
I don’t blame either set of supporters for trying to liven up their respective seasons, but in all honesty, there are far more deserving clubs to focus that attention on.
In an ideal world, Ayr United and Greenock Morton would up their game and make it to the level of their more illustrious rivals, and then Kilmarnock and St Mirren could put this artificial derby to bed once and for all.
With Morton looking set to drop down to Scotland’s third tier next season, and Ayr most likely staying there, all we can do is dream of the day when we could see a Premiership Ayrshire or Renfrewshire Derby.
Until that day, Kilmarnock and St Mirren supporters will continue to pretend to dislike each other, whilst really underneath the bravado, the majority will harbour a secret respect for each other.