DCSIMG

Tom English: Kris Boyd seeks to restore reputation

So happy together: Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels welcomes striker Kris Boyd back to Rugby Park ahead of yesterdays game against Aberdeen. Photograph:  Rob Casey/SNS

So happy together: Kilmarnock manager Kenny Shiels welcomes striker Kris Boyd back to Rugby Park ahead of yesterdays game against Aberdeen. Photograph: Rob Casey/SNS

  • by TOM ENGLISH
 

IF JAMES McFadden’s short-term signing by Motherwell was depicted as the return of the prodigal son, then how on earth are we to portray Kris Boyd’s sudden reappearance at Kilmarnock after leaving Portland Timbers?

Two prodigals in one week? Certainly two footballers who are desperately trying to find their way in the game again after many bruising years.

Our fascination with McFadden, pictured below, is wholly understandable given the heroics he has performed in a Scotland jersey and the joy he has given over the years. But Boyd? For sure, he’s a strange phenomenon.

Boyd has been a one-man soap-opera for years, a fantastic goal-scorer in Scotland but, of course, a limited footballer whose failings have been ruthlessly exposed since his exit from the SPL, firstly to Middlesbrough, then briefly to Nottingham Forest, then onwards to Turkey and then America.

Along the way, Boyd has accumulated an awful lot of money but not an awful lot of goals. Very few, in fact.

He might have disappeared from these shores but there has always been an interest in him. Maybe that interest took the form of rubber-necking at times but he is a compelling character and his return to Scotland adds interest to a season that is in desperate need of some spice in its final months. McFadden and Boyd might well provide it.

What is it about Boyd that creates such interest, in this column, at least, if nowhere else? Maybe it’s the nature of his struggle since leaving Kilmarnock, the only place that seemed to love him unconditionally. At Rangers, he banged in the goals with hair-raising regularity but was always close to the top of the queue when things turned sour and the fans went looking for a player to target. Boyd got such abuse on occasion that it made you wince. When he left, nobody lamented him. Nobody in the hierarchy, that’s for sure. Many of the fans said good riddance, too. That has been his struggle ever since. It’s fair to say that, when the time came for Boyd to leave Portland, there wasn’t a guard of honour lining up at the airport to wave him off.

He was sent on his way with the words of his manager, Caleb Porter, who said – and I’m only slightly paraphrasing here – that there was no prospect on this green earth that Boyd would ever play for him again.

Boyd also got it in the neck from the fans, the majority of whom felt him a spectacular waste of money and, to be fair, you can see their point. It wasn’t Boyd’s fault that the Timbers agreed to pay him $1.5 million last year, or a shade under £990,000 in the currency he will be paid in by Kilmarnock, but it did rather leave him open to the kind of scrutiny that players on a fraction of his wage wouldn’t get.

It’s hard to work out such things but a best guesstimate is that Boyd would have to play until he’s about 105 years of age to earn that kind of dough from his new (old) club at Rugby Park. The Portland fans had their calculators out long ago in determining precisely how much Boyd was costing them. He scored seven goals in 22 starts, which is a credible MLS tally for a regular Joe, but not for a fella on a king’s ransom. Each Boyd goal cost his former club just over $214,000 (£141,000), each game he started costing them $68,000 (£44,840).

The problems which beset him in Portland were the same kind of problems that have followed him everywhere in his career. His movement was non-existent, his fitness levels were questionable, he required service on a silver salver and, if he didn’t get it, his demeanour, to the watching fans at any rate, was that of a guy in a monstrous sulk.

That might be grossly unfair on him, of course. But that was the perception formed by many. Boyd didn’t look like he was trying as hard as he could.

Even before the strain to his right adductor brought an end to his MLS season with five games left to play, the warning lights were flashing.

The week before his injury, Boyd was required to play a game for the reserves against the Seattle Sounders B team. It wasn’t meant to be like that. Since leaving Ibrox, his career has taken on the appearance of a train wreck and that’s part of the reason why he remains a compelling character.

We wait for the great Boyd renaissance story but it never comes. His spell in Turkey had even casual watchers looking through the cracks in their fingers. It was typical of Boyd’s slapstick years that he would opt to move to Turkey when all of Turkish football was about to spiral into unheard of levels of chaos because of myriad match-fixing scandals.

In the relative blink of an eye, two of the men who would no doubt have persuaded Boyd to join Eskisehirspor, the manager Bulent Uygun and the athletic director Umit Karan, were both banged up in an Istanbul prison pending trial. Not long after, the club sacked the pair of them.

Into this madhouse walked Boyd. He was supposed to stay for three years but walked away after playing only 76 minutes of football.

He was supposed to be paid a fortune but there was controversy there, too. Boyd’s propensity for ending up in nightmarish scenarios is as remarkable as it is captivating. He’s had little luck, that’s true. He joined Middlesbrough and, almost immediately, the club began to implode. He went on loan to Forest and did well – scoring six league goals in only seven starts – but then the man who showed faith in him, Billy Davies, disappeared out the door and Boyd’s much-needed mentor was lost to him.

He has accumulated money but it’s appearances and goals he’s needing now. And a little love.

Maybe in return he’ll deign to get himself fit enough to justify whatever cash Kilmarnock are stumping up to bring him “home”.

When the news broke that Boyd was leaving Portland, a young academy player by the name of Sam Werner tweeted his response: “Cris [sic] Boyd is gone, thank God”.

In so many ways that encapsulated how wretched things have got for Boyd as a footballer. When even the young lads are giving you stick and getting your name wrong you know that things are pretty desperate.

Boyd is 29 and still has time for an Indian summer. Whether he has the mindset to make it happen is an entirely different matter.

One way or another, his story will enthral.

 

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