As Johnny Lee Miller’s character in Trainspotting might have opined about Kris Boyd: “Well, at one time you’ve got it, and then you lose it, and it’s gone forever.” Sick Boy’s theory of life will soon be put to its latest test by Boyd, a man treated with irrational quantities of both adoration and disdain throughout Scottish football.
One’s opinion of Boyd has always tended to the negative. In mine, it’s the unacceptable acceptance of mediocrity that – more than anything else – defined him. At his best, Boyd possessed the uncommon combination of being a great scorer of goals and a scorer of great goals. At his worst, Rangers, Scotland, Middlesbrough, Portland et al. may as well have been playing with ten men, such was Boyd’s unparalleled ability to make his living as a footballer, while not having a solitary clue how to actually be a footballer.
Boyd – though my tracking of his career has dwindled completely during his time in Oregon – presumably still plays the game with all the tenacity and desire of a man dawdling to the corner shop for the Sunday paper and ten smokes. Whether this is due to an unfortunate gait, or simply pure, transparent laziness is open to debate, though one suspects the majority would side to the latter.
And herein lies the problem: Boyd was endowed with an extraordinary ability yet he buried his talent in the ground, smugly satisfied with what he had and too slothful to bother improving the limitations that so shackled him. Faced with widespread disregard and even contempt? Fine with Boyd, for as long as he was still able to bang in five against Dundee United.
More than good enough to play in Scottish football’s dominant team against a conveyor belt of cannon-fodder; but not mobile enough, not clinical enough, and just not alive enough for any superior level to that. Look at the opponents against whom Boyd scored his seven international goals: Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Georgia, South Africa and Lithuania. Rather less than a catalogue of tremendous conquests. In the same vein, Boyd’s three continental goals for Rangers came against Livorno (penalty), Auxerre and Hapoel Tel Aviv.
For Boyd, the defining moment of his international career came while his ample gluteus was welded to the Hampden bench. Not trusted by George Burley as a second half substitute, Boyd glared with hostility while Chris Iwelumo casually sidefooted wide of a gaping net, before prematurely retiring in the huff after the game.
But – despite these huge reservations – whatever it is, he did have it. Boyd definitely had it.
Even accounting for his attitude, his tiresome lack of commitment to the international cause, and his unrepentant laziness, Boyd always terminated inferior sides with extreme prejudice. There was period between 2006 and 2008 when he might just have been the best finisher in British football. A robotic assassin, with nerves of iron. He contributed little else, but his goalscoring was remarkable. In a good team, against hapless opposition; well, Boyd was your man.
In his day – which may not be over just yet – was Boyd a predator beyond compare or an incapable impostor? The truth, as so often when considering two extreme positions, probably lies somewhere in between. Boyd was never as good as his disciples would have convinced you; yet not as bad as his detractors claimed (no-one present at Firhill to witness his left-footed homage to Marco van Basten would deny that he was truly blessed with some special talent). Whether he will ever again discover that panache is doubtful, the career decline seems irreversible at present.
However, Boyd’s lasting legacy – unfairly, perhaps – may rest on production in his return to Rugby Park. Should he fail to impress at Kilmarnock, the Boyd who became a laughing stock in England, Turkey and the USA will be eternally remembered; but, should Boyd rise majestically from the scrapheap on which he currently resides, the columnists and sports editors will recall one of the great Scottish strikers: a man who had it, lost it, and got it back again.