Three months ago Kris Boyd was ready to call it a day and consign his playing days to history. Yesterday he received the Ladbrokes Player of the Month award for December and today the 34-year-old will sign a one-year extension to his contract with Kilmarnock.
That reversal of fortunes has been sudden and dramatic and, according to the player himself, can be summed up in five words; Steve Clarke and Eamonn Brophy.
A natural finisher, Boyd has always known where he should be without ever being the most mobile of front men. Consequently, the lone striker role favoured by former manager Lee McCulloch did not suit his style and, towards the end of his reign, Boyd found himself a reluctant spectator on the bench.
Consequently, he was prepared to pursue careers in coaching and broadcasting until Clarke replaced McCulloch in October and implored him not to retire prematurely; he is now glad that he accepted his challenge.
“I did feel as if I was coming to the end,” he confessed. “Being honest, I felt I was maybe more or less done.
“But, from his first conversation with me, he managed to convince me to stay. He asked me to give him until January and, hopefully, I have repaid that.
“When things change in a work environment you see a lot of people running about again and trying to impress a new manager.
“I’ve seen that so many times in my career and I couldn’t face people who had been under-performing suddenly running about all over the place and clattering into the back of me at training.
“I felt my body was sore but [Clarke] said we wouldn’t be doing long sessions which would be strenuous on the body.
“For me, [not retiring] has been the best decision ever. I’m enjoying my football. I’ve finished my badges and I’ve now got someone I can learn from and develop with. If that’s the next step for me then there’s no better person to learn from.
“He’s got everything. There’s so much detail on the training field – there’s not a stone left unturned, without needing to hold meeting after meeting.
“Last year was a difficult year for me but, since the manager came in, I’ve started almost every game. It’s great to have someone who backs you and wants you. Before that, I was in and out of the team.
“The manager now wants me to be the No 9 striker who gets in the box; there are other people round about me to do the work and create the opportunities.
“The days for me to press higher up the pitch are gone – in fact, they might never have been there!”
Clarke also quickly realised that Boyd works best in partnerships and his decision to pair him with Brophy, a summer signing from Hamilton who had previously failed to make an impression, has proved a masterstroke.
“He’s been fantastic since coming from Hamilton and he’ll only get better,” said Boyd. “It’s been great playing alongside him and he’s definitely helped me. The workrate he puts in is first class. I’ve always played my best football when I’ve been alongside someone else rather than as a lone striker.
“A lot of youngster come into the team, run about and then drop out. Eamonn is scoring goals, progressing all the time and I don’t think you’ll just see flashes from him and then he will disappear.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the next one [to leave for big money].”
Boyd scored six goals in as many games last month to take his total to 12 midway through the campaign. It’s already an improvement on his tally for 2014-15 (ten, for Rangers) and 2015-16 and 2016-17 (seven and eight respectively, with Kilmarnock).
Unsurprisingly, he admits that he believed his award-winning days had been consigned to history.
“They were; it’s very difficult to put a run together to get yourself up for an award,” he said. “It’s great on a personal level, but a lot of credit has to go to my team-mates.”