MARVIN Baird, the anti-hero of BBC Scotland’s fly-on-the-wall documentary The Scheme, may famously have been “happy as Larry” despite his far from idyllic existence.

The same, however, could not be said of the good folk of Kilmarnock after the controversial programme aired back in 2010. Many locals felt the often unedifying exploits of the residents of Onthank housing estate did untold damage to the image of the area.

Steve Clarke, born and brought up in nearby Salcoats, tuned in from his home in England. He was one of those who thought it was unrepresentative of both the Ayrshire town and its inhabitants. So helping to portray a corner of the country which has suffered more than most from the economic downturn in a more positive light in recent months is something which has given him great satisfaction.

Clarke, who has been voted Scottish Football Writers’ Association Manager of the Year in association with William Hill, has achieved much since being appointed at Kilmarnock back in October. Steering the relegation-threatened Rugby Park club to Ladbrokes Premiership safety, overseeing a 14-game unbeaten run, orchestrating defeats of both Celtic and Rangers and securing a top six place; it has been a remarkable spell and his honour is richly deserved.

Yet, the wider implications of the resurgence are what pleases the man responsible the most. “The actual turnaround for the town has been amazing,” he said earlier this week. “I suppose that is the little bit of pride that I take about the job that I have done so far. It has been a tough time for Ayrshire and for Kilmarnock. A lot of decent industry left this area and the town has been a little bit deprived.

“It definitely got a bit of bad press through the TV programme they put on which made the area look really, really bad and it is not a bad area. There are a lot of good people in Ayrshire, there are a lot of good people in Kilmarnock.

“It was broadcast down south and I watched it. It didn’t do Kilmarnock any favours. I think there has always been a good connection between the club and the town by and large. That drifted a little bit previously so it is nice that we have been able to pick that up quickly.”

Kilmarnock have been transformed by Steve Clarke, but Steve Clarke is the first to admit he has been transformed by Kilmarnock too. He had grown cynical about management after his spells at both West Brom, who sacked him after he had delivered the highest Premier League finish in their history, and Reading, where his chances of success were scuppered by political in-fighting behind the scenes, ended badly. His enthusiasm for the profession has been rekindled.

“It is very, very short term now," he said. “It is just the way the game has gone. But I was a little bit disillusioned with the two terminations because of the way they happened. You get a little bit sad when you think you have done alright and suddenly you have lost your job.

“I went to Aston Villa with Roberto (Di Matteo) and just coached. I enjoyed working with him and I enjoyed working with the players. Coming out of that I had found a little bit of enthusiasm for the game. Just at the right time Kilmarnock came.”

Youssouf Mulumbu is another who has got his career back on track at Kilmarnock this season, The Congolese midfielder, who was brought in on a short-term deal in November, has been instrumental in the team’s remarkable revival. Clarke knows he will struggle to hold onto the player this summer. But he is optimistic he can retain the services of the majority of his squad members and is also hopeful their success this term will prove helpful in landing new signings.

“I’d imagine someone will come along in the summer who can offer him a lot more money than we can," he said. "He’ll move on with our best wishes. But if that doesn’t happen, then our offer is still on the table for him.

“There are players we can attract to Scottish football. It’s a good platform. You’re playing in front of 50,000 one week, 18,000 the next, you’re on Sky, you get more profile.

“I haven’t thought about losing too many of the players. Jordan (Jones) might go because he has one year left on his contract. We’re not a club who’ll stand in anyone’s way of something better comes for them.

“But because of what we’ve done together, most of the players want to stay. That’s why they’ve signed contracts, they’re all happy. I don’t envisage losing too many.”

Clarke, though, appreciates the limitations of his club and is realistic about their prospects of improving on a fifth-placed finish in the 2018/19 campaign even if the core of the squad remains intact.

“You have to set the mark high,” he said. “We have to aim for top six now next year. But before you get to that, you have to secure your place in the league.

"At the start of the season I'll make sure everyone connected with this club knows the first port of call is to be safe in the league. If you can achieve that, then you can readjust your targets."

Being apart from his wife, who has remained down south to help raise their grandson, for long spells has proved difficult. “It can get a wee bit lonely being here on your own,” he said.

But you sense that Clarke appreciates, after the chastening experiences of the past, he is on to a good thing at Kilmarnock. He has been linked with the Rangers and Scotland vacancies in recent months and a return to England. But having been a victim of the cut-throat nature of management down south, he will not be lured away easily. Not when he has a smile on his face again.

“If we’d been embroiled in a dogfight down the bottom, I might not be as happy-go-lucky, the all-smiling Mr Cheerful I am here. Seriously, though, I came to enjoy myself and I have.”