THE only thing more painful for Kilmarnock supporters than seeing their side losing a goal to Celtic this afternoon would be the sight of Youssouf Mulumbu wheeling away in celebration at Rugby Park for a team other than their own.

Thankfully for them, the midfielder will spare them that indignity should the situation arise today, although that is as far as his sentiment will extend.

As fate would have it, the former West Brom man looks set to make his Celtic debut against the club that helped him to rekindle his love of the game last season after a difficult spell at Norwich, and no man was more responsible for that turnaround in his fortunes than Kilmarnock manager Steve Clarke.

Without the influence of Clarke, Mulumbu concedes that he may not now be set to line up for the team that he put to the sword so memorably last season while in the blue and white stripes, but he won’t hesitate to make the difference again today now the boot is on the other foot.

“I signed for Kilmarnock because Steve Clarke was there,” said Mulumbu. “I knew the confidence he could give me, I knew the way he was playing, and I knew what his training was like, so it was easy for me to sign. I knew for sure that he would be honest with me, and when I wasn’t doing so good, he would tell me straight away. He would say ‘you’re not thinking about football right now’ and I would have to get back to it. Then, when I was good, he was telling me to keep going and help the team. That was what I was looking for and maybe that’s what has brought me to Celtic.

“If I play against Kilmarnock it is going to be special for me because I spent some good months there. I’m just looking forward to playing. The challenge is to play for Celtic and show I am a good player who can play for the team. It’s going to be a tough game because they have good players. [Aaron] Tshibola is there, Boydy [Kris Boyd], [Greg] Stewart. We just need to be careful and to go there with confidence.

“I’ve got so much respect for Kilmarnock, the fans and my team-mates, so I won’t celebrate [if I score].

“My best memory at Kilmarnock was scoring against Celtic. But I am a challenger, I always want to win. When I go there, I won’t think of mercy. If I can score against Kilmarnock, sorry for my former team-mates, but I will.”

Clarke has something of a reputation for projecting a sombre demeanour, and Mulumbu isn’t sure that even his winner against the champions in February raised a smile from his boss.

“I don’t even know, but I know he was happy after the game,” he said. “But, if I score against them, I know for sure that he’s not going to be happy and he won’t smile!

“I sent him a message out of respect just before I signed [for Celtic] to tell him and to thank him for everything that he did for me. He replied to say that he was glad for me and I deserve it.

“To be fair, he opened up more at Kilmarnock, because when I was at West Brom he wasn’t talking at all. When I came to Kilmarnock, the players were always asking me what he was thinking, because they never knew. I told them that as long as he doesn’t talk, that means he’s happy.

“But he’s a great coach and he deserves all the praise he is getting.”

In the short time that Mulumbu has spent working under Brendan Rodgers at Celtic, he has noticed similarities between Clarke’s approach and the man who he worked alongside at Chelsea in their early coaching days.

“He comes from the same school as Brendan Rodgers, the gaffer,” he said. “They have the same style. I would say the only difference is that Steve Clarke will put more intensity into defence, while Brendan Rodgers puts more intensity on the offensive side.

“That’s the same school, the same training, the same intensity. They just focus on different details.

“Steve worked with [Jose] Mourinho, he worked with Liverpool, he worked with [Gianfranco] Zola, so there is no doubt this is why Kilmarnock finished in the top five last season.”

For Mulumbu, Kilmarnock is now in his past. In the present, he sees a bright future ahead for himself in a Celtic jersey. He watched the match against Rosenborg from the bench on Thursday night, and like the vast majority of the crowd inside Celtic Park, he recognised that the attacking verve which has characterised Celtic under Rodgers has disappeared. But he is confident that he can do his part to help them rediscover their cutting edge.

“You can see right now that we have such good players, but we are just missing a spark,” he said. “We are needing to take on the risky pass maybe, and hopefully I can provide that, and this season is going to be brilliant for Celtic.

“It wasn’t the greatest game in the world [on Thursday]. The most important thing was to get the three points for the confidence and to play the next game.

“We just need to be more confident, to stick to the game plans, to be patient because the opposition is going to be very deep. And be clinical in the box.

“As we saw, it took us a while in Europe to score but we got the three points.”