Who is the greatest goalscorer in the history of the SPL, David Witteveen of course and everyone knows that the heady mix of Israeli skill and Russian grit made Jan Teleshnikov the single greatest player to grace the SPL. Ridiculous isn’t it, as ridiculous as trying to compare two players who have greatly impacted on the SPL but in two totally different ways. Henrik Larsson has been the greatest player to grace the SPL in the modern era, a man who even at 38 and manager of Landskrona in the Swedish Superettan is still being courted by clubs from the biggest leagues in the world to help them get through the rest of the season.
Nothing will epitomise the skill that Larsson that had garnered through his career quite like his 15 minute cameo in the Champions League Final for Barcelona that left Arsenal and his peers with nothing but admiration. Highly acclaimed by managers and players alike Larsson will be forever remembered in Scottish football folklore as its greatest import. Forget Paul Gascoigne, Brian Laudrup, Mitchell Van Der Gaag and Christophe Cocard, Larsson proved that he was a class act wherever he went. One thing though has been taken away from him and that is the title of all time leading goalscorer in the SPL.
With five goals in the demolition of Dundee United Kris Boyd overtook the Swede as the number one goalscorer in the SPL. A natural finisher, a lazy git, master poacher, big game choker, pie lover and in some opinions just a bit of an arse, he is a player that polarises opinion not only in Scotland but also at Ibrox where he sometimes struggles to find the same support from his bosses that he gets from some of his supporters.
Boyd’s SPL goalscoring legacy hasn’t been solely based on his exploits in Govan but started at Kilmarnock, ironically a team he never fails to score against. He scored 63 goals in 153 matches and in the half season prior to his arrival on Edminston Drive he scored 19 goals. Despite more lucrative offers from clubs south of the border Boyd signed for Rangers in 2006. Leaving behind half of his signing on fee to go towards the Youth Academy at Kilmarnock that helped develop him.
He is the most natural finisher in Scottish football since his coach Ally McCoist, and in an ironic twist of fate Boyd came on for McCoist in what turned out to be McCoist’s final professional game for Kilmarnock. Ask any fan across the country and if they see the name Kris Boyd in the starting line up they just know he is going to score. There’s no thinking about it, they just know. 99% of the time when Boyd has a millimetre in the box shortly after will follow a run to the corner flag or a flash of his much maligned belly to the opposition fans.
His job is to score goals, and he does that with tremendous regularity. For a player with one dimension it’s a pretty potent dimension to have, although this season Boyd has shown signs of maturing as a player on the park if not necessarily off of it. Boyd is still only 26, by no means a youngster but a player who has yet to reach the peak of his powers. He will never dribble his way past a couple of defenders or have fans sitting agog at his trickery but his eye for a pass and his overall effort and movement have improved. A huge part of this improvement should be recognised in the partnership he has formed for club, and possibly in future for country, with Kenny Miller. Miller does the donkey work and Boyd does the finishing. A perfect match covering up each others fatal flaws with a pass or look to the other. It is perhaps no coincidence then that as the partnership has been given proper time to develop with Rangers maintaining a 4-4-2 this season that the flaws in both players games are slowly being remedied as they feed off the confidence of each others form. It is a one dimensional argument but it is a very strong 30 goals a season one dimensional argument.
But in exchange for his one true natural attribute there are flaws. Perhaps the greatest one aimed at him is his inability to score in the ‘big games’ a criticism that is accredited with much vindication. He has yet to score for Rangers against Celtic and when presented with a golden opportunity against Stuttgart in the Champions League earlier in the season he contrived to miss a free header from six yards out. It was his big chance and he blew it. Personally I believe that the pressure has got to him regarding this and if he can overcome it, which with his natural finesse for goal, he will, then the goals will come there too. The nature of his teams play in the big games also has a derogatory effect on his game. Walter Smith hardly known for his swashbuckling style clams up even further when they play anybody with an exotic name or green and white hoops.
As shown in the New Year derby, Boyd was left alone and without ammunition. Pele could have given him all the Viagra in the world but he had no chance of ‘scoring’ without anyone to do the set up work for him which brings us nicely to the next dispute over Boyd, his overall game.
In recent seasons Boyd has been viewed as a luxury player, almost counting as half a player in the views of his managers for both club and country. There have been times when you watch Boyd with the ball nowhere near him he would be as well down the pie stall stocking up for half time. With that comes the problem of getting game time in a team that plays with one up front, with his manager preferring the effort of Novo or Miller over the potency of Boyd. However this season it appears that Boyd is learning that goals alone will only get you so far, he appears to have trimmed down, though as Falkirk fans can testify too he will never win a Mr. Universe contest. On a few occasions he can even be seen chasing a ball down, and his play around the box has improved by an infinite amount purely because up until this season the phrase ‘good work by Boyd on the wing’ didn’t exist.
Perhaps the biggest question mark remaining over Kris Boyd his is attitude and perhaps more significantly given the current state of our national team, should he pull on the dark blue of Scotland once again. Boyd understandably was more than a bit miffed when with Scotland needing a goal against Norway ‘Wee Georgie’ looked to his bench and bypassed Boyd for Chris Iwelumo. A move which may have signalled the beginning of a long and painful end for George Burley’s Scotland career. What followed for Boyd was a wee strop about not being brought on and a self imposed exile from the national team as long as George Burley was in charge.
With a new manager in place Boyd has made himself available again but is he wanted back. Opinion within the tartan army is divided, on the one side the patriots say he should never pull on the jersey again; no one should ever turn their back on their country. On the other side are the statisticians who say that how can Scotland afford to turn away a striker with his track record, especially considering the current state of the national side. Only one man will decide that and that will be our esteemed new leader Craig Levein. I think Levein will want him to be involved but will make it perfectly clear he is in charge. Levein has proven in the past that he does not take nonsense from his players and no ego should be bigger than the greater cause. Garry Kenneth has a Cowdenbeath fridge magnet to prove it. I also think that a more mature and settled Boyd will accept this as well as respecting his manager and it can only benefit the team.
So what lies in the future for Boydy, well more goals you would imagine? With Rangers? Probably. With Scotland? Possibly. Despite his contract being close to expiration and the lack of cash available at Ibrox, Boyd has chosen love over money once before for Rangers and would be more than willing to do it again. If Boyd has the desire to test himself at another level there are options across Europe but at the moment he appears content with his lot. He will never be eternally loved or respected, his past misdemeanours have assured that, but if he can score the goal that takes us to another major championship then that will help heal the wounds.
Greatest player in the history of the SPL? No. The potential to be the greatest goalscorer in the history of Scottish football. That is up to the man himself.