Off the bat, fair play to Kilmarnock.

They’ve had an absolutely sensational campaign so far. Up to third in the table and have twice been top of it in recent weeks.

It shows the stunning work that Steve Clarke has done in Ayrshire. Turning Lee McCulloch’s relegaton fodder into genuine contenders for the European spots – the job he’s done there really can’t be praised enough.

This isn’t supposed to come across as a condescending pat on the head. Apologies if it does. But Killie deserve everything they have this season, and deserve to be excited about what’s being built there.

Steve Clarke has taken Kilmarnock to the top of the table twice this season (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

But when can we stop pretending they’re title-challengers? In recent days, and without naming names, many have claimed that they can’t be ignored and are in the title-hunt. One report even stated Celtic should “beware”.

Yes, beware of the team they dismantled 5-1 at Parkhead only two weeks ago. A team who will be five points behind Celtic if the Hoops win their game in-hand despite contrasting starts to the season.

The game at Parkhead showed exactly what happens when Celtic really are pushed up against a wall. They came roaring back and dominated Killie all over the Parkhead surface.

Kilmarnock have been a breath of fresh air

That’s not Kilmarnock’s fault. They’re continuing to surprise everyone this season and could potentially split the two Glasgow giants.

But title-challengers? Let’s stop insulting everyone’s intelligence. If Kilmarnock are top of the league come the end of March by several points, then fair enough.

Considering, however, that Killie have been at their best and Celtic have been close to their worst, this is as close as they can get. Celtic remain several notches of class above Kilmarnock as they rightly should given both club’s budgets.

Clarke’s side were hammered 5-1 at Celtic Park earlier this month (Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Again, nobody wants to beat Kilmarnock with a big stick for actually being up the top end of the table. This is simply a call to stop the over-exaggerated nonsense of a title-race involving them.

Drumming up interest in Scottish football is brilliant, but not if it’s fantasy nonsense. And until Killie start to reach top spot and look like staying there, that’s all a title-challenge for them will ever be.

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