KRIS Boyd yesterday stressed that he had not travelled to Norway simply to make up the numbers as he prepared to make a first appearance for his country since a World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein in 2010.
Now that he is fit and playing regularly once again at Kilmarnock, the 30-year-old believes he can still be of value to manager Gordon Strachan. “If I didn’t think that I would have told Gordon I wasn’t coming,” he said. “The confidence has never left me. If I’m given chances I know I’ll score more than I will miss. It’s about getting into positions to score.”
Along with former Rangers team-mate Steven Naismith, the recalled Boyd is one of only two strikers who boarded the plane yesterday for tonight’s international friendly in Molde as Strachan prepares to experiment following Friday’s 0-0 draw with the United States.
Ross McCormack has dropped out with a hamstring injury after coming on as substitute against Jurgen Klinsmann’s side, while Steven Fletcher has been allowed to return to Sunderland. Goalkeeper Matt Gilks has also returned to his club, Blackpool, after picking up an injury and Charlie Mulgrew and Grant Hanley had already dropped out after playing on Friday.
Derby County midfielder Craig Bryson is set to start tonight, three years after making his debut as a substitute against the Faroe Isles at Pittodrie, while Boyd will also play some part of the match after a three-year absence from international football.
For Bryson, tonight marks an overdue opportunity to begin his Scotland career in earnest while for Boyd, it is chance to resuscitate his international ambitions.
Since scoring twice on his debut against Bulgaria in 2006 the Kilmarnock striker’s relationship with the Scotland team has been far from straightforward. Even when he was a regular member of the squad, he often found himself left out of vital matches.
It was when he was left on the bench for a game against Norway in 2008 by then manager George Burley that he decided to go into international exile, although he was later enticed back by Craig Levein, under whom he won his last cap. Since then, sporadic first-team appearances for Middlesbrough and then Turkish side Eskisehirspor have not helped his international chances and a spell at Portland Timbers in Major League Soccer pushed him off the international radar.
However, with Scotland desperately short of options in attack, Strachan has turned to Boyd as a convenient and proven replacement.
Although the player’s attitude has sometimes been questioned, Strachan revealed that Boyd was at the Scotland headquarters within two-and-a-half hours of being called in on Sunday – with Dundee United midfielder Stuart Armstrong, another late recruitment, arriving shortly afterwards. “Both of them brought enthusiasm,” said Strachan. “Sometimes when you pick up the phone and it can be: ‘Oh well, I’ll need to wait and…’ but no, bang, they said they’ll be there.”
Now Boyd hopes to pay the manager back for his latest show of faith in a player he signed for Middlesbrough from Rangers in 2010. Strachan left the club soon afterwards and Boyd struggled to settle.
“We’ve kept in touch,” said Boyd of Strachan yesterday. “We don’t phone all the time but we’ve kept in touch. It’s a regret that it didn’t take off at Middlesbrough. It was a giant step for me to leave Rangers
and I think Gordon’s said he tried to change things too quickly and it unsettled the Middlesbrough fans and everyone struggled.
“When I look back it’s regret that I never got longer to work under him because I loved every minute. To be working under him again with Scotland is great.”
Before his return to regular action this season, Boyd accepts that thoughts of a Scotland return were unrealistic.
“I wasn’t fit enough before to get into those positions and to represent my country but I can now,” he said. “I look forward to getting two minutes, ten minutes, 20 minutes – if I get on at all I will enjoy it. I know I’ve a long way to go before I can be classed as an international player again.
“I’ve said for months that I wanted to get myself back involved in Scotland squads. I’m obviously delighted to be called up.
“It’s a massive boost for me to be here but I want to be back known as an international player who is getting named in the original squads. That’s the big goal for me now.
“This is a giant step in the right direction for me but I know the hard work needs to continue. We’ve not had the greatest start to the season at Kilmarnock but I’m happy enough with my own form, with six goals in 12 games.”
Boyd is aware that his Scotland career has not taken off the way he and others expected but he stands by his goalscoring record. “The stats in black and white are fine,” he said. “I’ve played 18 times and scored seven goals. There’s a lot of strikers can’t compare to that. But I know there’s a lot more there.
“Can I do the same again? I don’t know. It’s a challenge I’ve put on myself to score goals for my country. I was left out of bigger games before but I can understand why. It wasn’t easy to take but you can only score against the teams you are playing against.
“If I’m given a chance again I will look to score as many as I can for Scotland.”