Kris Boyd spent his final three minutes as a professional footballer as he had spent the previous 18 years – looking for a goal but, more notably, trying to help his side engineer a win.
In the end, their narrow victory over Hibs on the final day of the season sent Kilmarnock into Europe – a fitting farewell gift to the club where he had started his professional career, and then enjoyed an indian summer.
In recent times, his onfield input had decreased but as a winner and an example for the youngsters in the dressing room of what they could go on to achieve, he was an asset.
That was why Steve Clarke worked hard to change his mind when the former Scotland striker wanted to hang up his boots in 2017. Disenchanted, the man who remains the SPL record goalscorer and has clinched six trophies throughout his career, had fallen out of love with the game but his new manager persuaded him to give it time. He did and repaid Clarke’s confidence in him by finishing that season as the top flight’s top hitman for the fifth time in his career.
But, with Clarke, pictured, leaving to take up the job of Scotland manager, replaced by Italian Angelo Alessio, and with starting appearances becoming more and more limited, the writing was on the wall.
It was a professional career that started and, as has now been confirmed in a statement from the club, ended at Kilmarnock. There were stops at Rangers, Middlesbrough, Nottingham Forest, Eskisehirspor and Portland Timbers, while he also amassed 18 caps for Scotland and netted seven international goals.
“The club can confirm that our club captain and legendary striker Kris Boyd has signaled his intention to retire from professional football,” said the club statement.
“Kris’ place in the illustrious history of Scotland’s oldest professional football club is secured with 136 Killie goals in over 300 appearances. His final goal against St Johnstone was his 121st league goal for Kilmarnock, leaving him level with fellow club legend Eddie Morrison.”
Having considered alternative offers to join, among others Partick Thistle, Boyd has decided to hang up his boots, choosing to focus on his media and punditry roles rather than attempt to extend his playing career or move into coaching.
Boyd broke on to the professional scene in 2001, making his Killie debut as a substitute for Ally McCoist in his final appearance. That ended in a 1-0 win over Celtic, and booked the Rugby Park side a place in Europe.
But if there were similarities between that first outing and his last, it was the years in between that have ensured him a place in Scottish football history.
He began the first of his two Rangers stints in January 2006, spending four and a half years at Ibrox. A figure who divided opinion and sparked many a heated pub debate. A clinical goal poacher, who proved a handful for defenders in the box, his goals ratio was impressive, but take away the goals and some felt that his overall contribution was questionable, which often meant he was left on the bench in big games or when managers such as Walter Smith looked to deploy a lone striker.
Shortly after joining Rangers, Boyd made his Scotland debut, scoring twice against Bulgaria, but he attracted headlines in 2008 when a rift with national boss George Burley led to him turning his back on Scotland.
“Scotland were going through a little bad spell,” said Gordon Smith, who was then SFA chief executive. “But I was disappointed Kris didn’t play as I felt he had something to offer. However, he had a career in international football, won trophies at the highest levels with Rangers and scored a lot of goals, so when he looks back I think he’ll be pretty proud of what he’s done.”
When Burley was replaced by Craig Levein in 2009, Boyd confirmed he was now “ready and willing” to represent his country again and did return to the fold. His last game was in 2010, but such was his form under Clarke at Kilmarnock that the veteran striker was being touted for a recall. At that time he refused to rule out a return if called up but also stated that he felt it was incumbent on the SFA to develop and rely on younger players.
Having spent time at Middlesborough and Nottingham Forest, before moving abroad to play with Eskisehirspor, in Turkey, and MLS outfit Portland Timbers, he returned to Scotland and to his two real footballing loves, Rangers and then Kilmarnock.
He returned a more mature player and person, happy to pass on his knowledge to the youngsters in the dressing room. His winning mentality also drove teams on, whether he was on the pitch or from the sidelines.
Personal tragedy also focused his mind and allowed him to prioritise. The deathin 2016 of his brother Scott, who took his own life aged 27, led Boyd to set up the Kris Boyd Charity with the aim of assisting those dealing with mental health issues and encouraging greater discussion in an attempt to address the problems and the root causes.
With game time more limited this year, he still managed to grab his 121st goal for Killie, leaving him level with fellow club legend Morrison. Having helped the side to a third place finish and with a new manager looking to make his mark, he has switched focus to off-the-pitch endeavours, including his media career.
That and his charity appear to be where his energies will be channelled. But few at Killie or at Rangers will forget the former PFA Scotland Player of the Year’s contribution.
“Kris will rightly be regarded as a Kilmarnock legend and everyone at the club wishes him all the very best in his future career,” said the Killie statement. “It may be a long time before we see his like again and Kris will always be welcomed back to Rugby Park with open arms.”