STUART McCall is ready to ask Kris Boyd to salvage Rangers’ bid to return to the top flight of Scottish football tomorrow.
Left reeling by his team’s 3-1 defeat at Ibrox in the first leg of the Premiership play-off final on Thursday night, McCall will make several changes to his line-up as he attempts to overturn the deficit at Fir Park.
He confirmed that may entail a rare starting appearance for Boyd, whose second spell as a Rangers player has conspicuously failed to meet expectations.
Having netted 128 goals in 193 games for the club from 2006 to 2010, he returned last summer on the back of a prolific season with Kilmarnock where his 22 goals preserved their Premiership status and earned him a PFA Scotland Player of the Year nomination. But the 31-year-old striker has only managed to score three goals in 31 league appearances for Rangers in this campaign and has not found the net since February.
Boyd has drifted even further out of the first-team picture since McCall’s appointment as interim manager in March, starting just one game and making six substitute appearances since then.
The former Scotland international is out of contract this summer so may well be playing his final game for Rangers tomorrow.
But McCall believes it may be Boyd’s destiny to make a decisive contribution for the club as their promotion campaign reaches its conclusion.
“I honestly don’t know why it hasn’t worked out for him this season,” said McCall. “All I can say is that he couldn’t have been a better professional since I’ve been at this club.
“It has been so difficult for a lot of the lads whose contracts are up who have not had any game time to either impress me or a new manager or whatever.
“But Boydy has come to training every day and trained to his maximum. Kenny Miller and Nicky Clark struck up a good understanding, it has worked for us in a few games, while we have also used Haris Vuckic as a striker as well.
“At one stage, he wasn’t even in the matchday 18 and we played the young lad Ryan Hardie up front. So Boydy has always been just filling in since I came in.
“He could have spat the dummy out then, like a lot of senior pros might have done. But I can’t speak highly enough of his attitude.
“It must be difficult not being involved, especially with what he has done for the club and his past record here. It is too simple to say that Sunday could be his day to get the goals when we most need them. But I did say to him not long after I came in, on an occasion when I left him out of the squad altogether, that he should stick in because he could be the one who gets the winning goal which gets us up at the end of the season.
“You have to keep your eyes on that. I’m not saying that’s what’s going to happen. But could this be his day? Yeah.”
In a gruelling play-off schedule, Rangers will play their fifth game in 15 days tomorrow, which McCall admits is taking its toll on his squad. Already without defender Darren McGregor through suspension for the trip to Fir Park, he also has injury concerns over several players he was unwilling to identify.
Captain Lee McCulloch is likely to return to the side, while 18-year-old midfielder Tom Walsh and on-loan Newcastle winger Shane Ferguson are also in contention after impressing as substitutes during Rangers’ late rally in the first leg.
“We will freshen up the team, both through necessity and injury,” said McCall. “There are a lot of lads who are probably running on empty.”
Walsh, whose emergence in recent weeks has been one of the few encouraging features of the season for Rangers fans, is eager to answer the call.
“I would love to start and I’m ready,” he said.“It would be great to be part of something special for Rangers if we can turn it around. If we can get an early goal and put the pressure on Motherwell, we could go on from there and do it.”