Ross County striker Liam Boyce holds all the cards, now he must decide whether to stick or twist, as Daryn MacRae writes
There’s something peculiar about Liam Boyce. In an age when centre-forwards generally fall into one of two distinct brackets, that of the battering ram or the speed merchant, he fits neither. Teams these days hope their centre-forward knocks down the defensive door with his strength or uses his fleet of foot to run around it. Boyce though prefers to walk through it.
Topping the goalscoring charts with 24 goals for 7th place Ross County is a startling feat by anyone’s standards, especially when, without the muscle or speed of his rivals in the goal charts, a knack for being in the right place at the right time and a cool head are the Northern Irishman’s main source of ammunition.
The goals haven’t always flowed so freely for the Staggies’ talismanic striker, who struggled upon his arrival in the Highlands, looking cumbersome and unfit.
Boyce told the Daily Record: “When I arrived here I weighed something ridiculous, 99.7 kilos (15 and a half stone), and now I’m down to 85 or 86 (13-and-a-half stone).
“I thought I knew what I had to do to get fit but looking back it’s way more than I thought I would have to do.
“When I was at Cliftonville, the opposition fans used to shout ‘You fat b****** at me’ and I used to think: ‘What are they talking about?’ Now I realise there was a bit of truth in what they were shouting!”
Work with County’s sports scientist Ross Hughes altered the striker’s diet and training regime off the pitch though and transformed his performances on it.
A strike rate of almost one in two since moving to Dingwall means the sharks are circling this summer around the Global Energy Stadium, or at least in the miserly burn that runs alongside the grass pitches.
With one year remaining on his current deal and, at 26-years-old, entering his prime, the Northern Irishman must decide whether to settle down in the Highlands or move on to pastures new.
A derisory bid from Preston is already rumoured to have been thrown out by the County hierarchy, and further offers are in the pipeline. Some may come from north of the border, where a number of clubs have found goals somewhat of a premium commodity.
Rangers, for one, are in the market for a proven goalscorer and could do worse than look north for the answer to their prayers. Boyce, with 24 goals, has scored the same number as Kenny Miller, Martyn Waghorn and Joe Garner combined this campaign and would bring a much needed focal point to Caixinha’s attack.
Hearts are also interested as Ian Cathro searches for a goalscoring lifeboat to save his sinking ship, while newly promoted Hibs have cast alluring glances as they look to build a squad capable of challenging for second place.
For the time being Boyce has brushed off the transfer rumours with the same composure he’s shown in front of goal. The hitman is happy in the Highlands, where his family have settled after a fruitless spell in Germany with Werder Bremen.
Boyce holds all the cards at the moment with one year left on his deal. Now, he must decide whether to stick or twist.
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