HONESTY is a commodity valued highly by Kris Boyd. So when he says that Scotland really could qualify for a major tournament again, that Kilmarnock should still be aiming for a top-six finish in the Premiership and that Rangers have finally turned the corner, there is little doubting the veracity of his views.
Whether those opinions are validated throughout the various campaigns remains to be seen but ask Boyd an honest question and you tend to get an honest appraisal.
You set yourself goals and I think we achieved as many as we could with ScotlandKris Boyd
His belief is that candid realism could be the answer to helping a game he remains passionate about. “In the early days I don’t think I was naive,” he says, “I think it was just I was brought up to be open and speak the truth and take people at face value and you assume that others were brought up like that but not everyone has the same standards. I wasn’t naive, I just had different expectations.”
“You could sit with a youngster and tell them this and that but if it is a load of rubbish you are not helping anybody,” said the 32-year-old Kilmarnock striker, who is combining coaching with playing. “The days for shouting are finished, even with your own kids. If you shout at them then they just look at you like you’re an idiot but if you sit and speak to people you might get a reaction, if you give them a reason, I think that helps.
“There isn’t an awful lot of honesty in football but if you are being honest with them and people are honest with you then it might sink in. People might not like you but they will appreciate the fact you were honest with them.”
Honesty and realism. Some will say they cost him Scotland caps, he says that a lack of them in others has cost the country a chance to progress.
“In terms of Scotland qualifying again, in recent years we have been a million miles away from that,” says Boyd.
“People need to stop living in the past. When you look back, you set yourself goals and I think we achieved as many as we could with Scotland. With the groups we found ourselves in, to finish where we did was a realistic target. This is probably the first time where we have a team that you believe could do it. But other countries have got better while we have been at a standstill for years. People need to be honest about that or we can’t change it.
“Looking back at my time with Scotland, whether Under-13, Under-14, Under-15, all the way through to the national team, I think it was often seen as a burden to go away for a week or two weeks and that hurts the team. It was always ‘oh, here we go again’ and if it means that four or five players are off their game that is a problem because we are not good enough as a country to carry one or two let alone four or five.
“You need everyone in the right frame of mind and that’s where other countries have an advantage. They thrive on being one of the best players in their country and they have grown up going away to various camps since they were eight/nine/ten years old.
“For us, it has maybe changed a bit now and younger kids are going abroad for tournaments and camps, so they are more comfortable being in hotels, in different countries, where they speak a different language and maybe in the next ten to 15 years that will mean a change for the better in our game. But I can remember people ten to 15 years ago saying the same thing and it’s still pretty much the same, but if we can qualify, that’s good, because it does help if you can get a visualisation of something and we can kick on from there.
“But we have to be realistic about where we are in world football and right now I think we are over-achieving.”
The older he gets the more Boyd learns of duplicity by others as his list of contacts extends and gossip gets back to him. The wiser he gets, the less he cares. “Part and parcel of getting older is that things change. Youngsters, if they are not playing want answers. Some will do it in an arrogant way but most do it because they want to work at whatever is keeping them out the team. We don’t start training until 10.30 but when we come in at 9.30, we have young kids already out on the pitch.”
Ambitions reached as high as signing for Rangers or Celtic when he was a kid, setting targets youngsters then could relate to. Thanks to extensive TV coverage subsequent generations have broadened their scope. “I think most people need to be able to visualise and now they can do that with more than the top teams in Scotland. They have realistic aims and know that there are a few different stepping stones. Now there are worldwide opportunities.”
Travel in latter years may not have worked out the way Boyd would have hoped in a football sense but it has given him a greater perspective, he says. But avoiding grey areas remains understandable for a guy who finds solace in the black and white. A player with scoring credentials that few in the recent history of Scottish top-flight football can better, he has spent a career answering for his weaknesses as well as being applauded for his strengths.
“At the end of the day people go on about this or that but it’s all there in black and white. I look back to a few years ago and I was scoring almost every week and the numbers were racking up but it’s definitely easier to do that in a Rangers team that was dominating Scottish football.
“I was playing with international players and the hardest thing for me was making up my mind where I was going to put the ball because guys like Stevie Davis, Barry Ferguson, Stevie Naismith, Kenny Miller created the chances.”
But even in a struggling Kilmarnock team which narrowly avoided relegation two seasons ago, it was his goals which provided the lifeline. Close to finishing top scorer for the season, he was ultimately pipped by Celtic’s Kris Commons. “OK, I ran it close and I will always back my ability in front of goal, but I have been in Rangers teams creating an abundance of chances every week and Celtic are the same and that’s why it is difficult for a player outwith the top teams to finish top scorer.
“When I look at Rangers now, they have fully turned the corner and are performing at a level where they would probably fancy themselves in this league. You think to yourself, what it would be like to be part of that and scoring goals every week again because they are creating chances. But my main aim is to start winning games with Kilmarnock.”
The early season fixtures have been a bit of a struggle, with victories proving elusive and manager Gary Locke already under pressure. But while conceding that the loss of so many early goals constitutes self-harm, Boyd is not too downbeat.
“There have been signs in games that we can compete but the realistic aim for us just now is to win a game of football and then try to win another one.
“At the beginning of the season our realistic target was the top six and I still think that outwith Celtic, Aberdeen and maybe Hearts, there is not an awful lot between the teams in this league and it’s early doors yet so why not?”