Buoyed or Not by Boyd?

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In modern times one player has stood out as dividing the Rangers support more than any other. A true Marmite individual, this player plied his trade at Ibrox for 4 and a half years before departing for pastures new, and even in the 23 months since he left has remained a hot topic of conversation for bears, continuing to spark fierce debate between his passionate supporters and his sceptical detractors.
Now, after a difficult period in the English Championship with Middlesbrough followed by an equally disappointing loan spell at Nottingham Forrest, Kris Boyd finds himself a free agent having terminated his contract with Turkish outfit Eskişehirspor. He has begun legal proceedings against his former employers based on his claim that they failed to pay him during his stay.
Now that he is independent and available to a new club for no transfer fee, it was only natural that Rangers, the club he spent the most significant period of his career at, would be linked with a move for the prolific hitman. The question is would this be a good move for McCoist? The manager has failed to rule out moving for him, saying only that the club could use more goalscorers, and that it would be unfair to specify about any one individual player.
Kris Boyd in his Rangers days.
The ‘for’ argument in favour of signing is strong. This guy bags goals, and a lot of them. He remains the SPL’s record goalscorer, with a 164 goals to his name, out-doing even Celtic’s legendary Henrik Larsson. Scoring a multitude of goals was his job, and he was exceptionally good at it. His positional sense, particularly in the box, was second to none and he was often found in the right place at the right time to stroke a finish away.
He also had the ability to score special goals – his free kick against QOTS in the League Cup final was a stunning 25 yard piledriver, while he also cracked home a fantastic volley in a cup match V Partick similar to Larsen’s for Denmark in Euro 92. Kris Boyd knows the way to goal, and can score any type of goal be it a guilty poach or a 30 yard drop volley as he did against opponents in a cup match who escape my memory.
Secondly, being a free agent who has suffered a torrid time since leaving Ibrox, his wage demands might not be the lavish £30,000 he earned at Middlesbrough. Indeed, the striker might be willing to accept a much lower wage in order to get regular football and raise his stock in the game again. This would be very acceptable to Rangers in these frugal times.
Thirdly, it could be argued he has unfinished business in the SPL. Boyd never scored a meaningful goal against Celtic, and that is something he would absolutely love to set straight. It is one of the biggest benchmarks of any Old Firm striker, and Boyd was unable to measure up. He scored in a 2-0 victory once the East End side had wrapped up the title, and it was a wonderful finish, but it counted for nothing in the end beyond temporary bragging rights.
Lastly, he was strong in the air – while not the most mobile of athletes, he had a strong leap on him and was very handy for aerial knock-downs much in the way Lee McCulloch was in his prime. Our current batch of strikers are not known for their aerial prowess bar Jelavic (and even he is not imperious in this department). Lafferty is legendarily poor in the air, and Naismith is out injured.
There are definitely good arguments to bring him back. But there also convincing arguments opposing the idea.
Firstly is his lack of all-round game. His goal record at Ibrox is in no doubt, but a massive stumbling block is that he lacks the rounded quality of a top class centre-forward. While Jelavic heads, runs, controls, anticipates, supports and comes deeper when necessary, Boyd is pretty much limited to the occasional knock down and goals. He is a striker who pretty much only deals in goals. Of course, to his supporters this argument is worthless, given the currency for all strikers is hitting the back of the net. But the modern successful striker has to give more than just goals – they have to fit in with the whole team, supporting the formation and not having the unit moulded around them. Boyd is unable to do 80% of the tasks Jelavic and indeed Lafferty can engage in, and that makes him a distinctly limited striker.
Secondly is the fact that his goals were typically against lesser opposition. He scored plenty against the majority of the SPL, but failed against Celtic bar that aforementioned strike, and managed few goals in Europe over that period. Many fans will never forget ‘that’ miss against Villarreal which would have sent the club to the quarter finals of the Champions League. Against good quality opposition, during his time at Ibrox, he simply did not cut it. Of course, this reinforces the ‘good for the SPL’ argument, if that is all he will be deployed for, but it does seem a damning indictment of his abilities.
Third follows on from the second – moving to a higher level of competition, the Championship, saw Boyd fail to grow into the striker he possibly thought he was. He did score 6 in 10 for Nottingham Forrest, which is a decent return, but was abysmal at Middlesbrough (6 in 27) and Forrest, despite his ratio there, did not take him permanently. His period in Turkey is best left forgotten.
The last major argument regards the cloud under which he left. He appeared to enjoy holding Rangers to ransom over his next move – with his contract fast running out, he could either accept a modest improvement on his current salary and sign a new deal, or take more money at former Celtic manager Gordon Strachan’s Middlesbrough. No one would really blame him for seeing the pound signs, he is only human. But the entire process in which he appeared to portray his decision as the most important in the club’s history will always leave a sour taste in the mouth. And his detractors will have enjoyed seeing him struggle since departing as a result.
So there you have it, a bit of both sides of the conversation. Whether you are a supporter or cynic of Boyd, he will always remain a topical subject among Rangers fans and will remain a divisive factor among them, whether he returns or not.
Of course, it could all be a moot point given Celtic manager Neil Lennon has openly expressed interest in signing Boyd – saying his background would not be a problem and goalscorers are always welcome at Celtic Park. That would be quite a story…