THERE have been times during these dark days for Rangers that Lewis Macleod has been the solitary shining light.
As the Ibrox club have journeyed up the leagues in recent years, the 20-year-old has been the one beacon for home-grown development in Ally McCoist’s first XI.
For Kris Boyd, though, Macleod can glow for the club in far brighter circumstances – providing his abilities are not dulled by distractions.
Boyd nabbed the headlines with a hat-trick in the 8-1 destruction of Clyde on Monday night that netted him the first goals of his second spell at Ibrox.
Yet, the fact that Macleod contributed much more than a delightful double in the Petrofac Training Cup win seemed to enthuse the plunderer even more.
Indeed, it moved him to raise the name of Barry Ferguson. And not in a context related to the fact his former team-mate endured a pitiful evening as manager of a team taken apart by his old club.
“I thought Lewis Macleod was by far the man of the match,” Boyd said. “He took the game by the scruff of the neck, right from the first whistle.
“He came into areas where he was able to pick the ball up and I don’t think they really knew what to do with him. He was brilliant from start to finish.
“It would be wrong for me to put a lot of pressure on his shoulders, but I think we can all see what a talent he is.
“But at the end of the day, there has been a lot of talent come through this club, and Scottish clubs, who have not progressed the way they should have.
“When you look at it, the last one who really went to the top was Barry Ferguson. Maybe Scott Brown too, a fantastic player. But Lewis Macleod could go on to become one of them if he keeps training properly – the way he does – day in and day out and applies himself properly.
“I think he listens to the older ones who tell him what to do.
“When you look at his Clyde performance he was fantastic, but he has been like that all season – even from pre-season.
“Look at his goals: right foot, left foot. Everyone will probably talk about his first goal [when he curled the ball in from 22 yards], but, for me, the second goal [an angled first-time effort] was the pick of the bunch. He kept it down even though it came across him on his bad side, managed to go across the keeper, and it was a great finish.”
What heartens when it comes to Macleod maximising his genuine potential is that he is the smart, sensible sort not given to believing he is the finished article. That could prove as valuable to the Premiership-pushing Championship side down Ibrox way as the player himself over the next couple of years, Boyd acknowledged.
“It’s massively important [he is level-headed] because I think when you look at a lot of young kids in Scotland, they can get carried away with themselves,” he said. “But he’s got his head screwed on properly, and he’s enjoying his football and enjoying being here.
“He’s seen the tough times at this club, but hopefully he will stay around. And if we all stick together as a team and he’s part of that team, I think we can win this league and push on and pose a challenge next year.”
The delight Rangers players and their manager were willing to take from a whipping of a part-time fourth tier side on their own patch probably tells all too much about how dire their performances have been in the opening weeks of the season.
Yet it is a period during which the defeat at home to Hearts in their Championship opener a week past Sunday has been their only result blemish. Last Friday’s frightfest at Falkirk fooled no-one, though, and Boyd adopted an ‘about time’ harsh appraisal of his own form in the wake of his triple score.
“It was great to get off the mark again. I didn’t even score in pre-season, apart from my first game. You become frustrated, but I’ve shown over my career that I’m not going to hide if I have missed a couple of chances. I’ll keep coming back for more.
“It’s always good to score, especially at this club, where it can be difficult if you don’t. I was brought back to do that and hadn’t done it, but with the games before, we had chances and we’ve not taken them.
“I’m not going to sit and criticise my team-mates for not creating chances – I think our movement as strikers could have been better.
“We created plenty against Clyde, albeit it was lesser opposition, but it showed if we apply ourselves properly and get high up the pitch we can damage teams.”