UEFA Cup: Rangers' goal-scoring machine Boyd gears up for Hapoel TA
It's hard to count just how many goals Kris Boyd has scored for Glasgow Rangers - Hapoel Tel Aviv UEFA Cup round of 32 opponent on Wednesday night - so in Scotland they have invented an index bearing his name.
So far this season the Scottish Premier League's top scorer has hit the net 15 times, but in the UEFA Cup for some reason he is off the mark. Not that Hapoel can afford to breathe a sigh of relief; over the weekend, Boyd hit a hat-trick for Rangers against his former team Kilmarnock.
The 23-year-old joined Rangers in January 2005. He first burst into the headlines with five goals for Kilmarnock in a 5-2 win over Dundee United the previous season. His Scottish record-equaling tally attracted the attention of several English clubs, but Boyd refused to leave Kilmarnock until the offer from Rangers arrived.
Boyd ended last season as the SPL's top scorer with 32 strikes - 15 at Kilmarnock and another 17 at Rangers - and added another five in other competitions.
His total of 37 goals created a "Boyd Index" and the big question in Scotland is can he surpass that tally this season.
"It's nice when you have your goals counted, but the important thing for me is the success of the team," Boyd told Haaretz yesterday before leaving for Tel Aviv. "I'd like to be top scorer again, but I find it hard to believe I'll top 37 goals."
Boyd's prolific tally earned him a place in the Scottish national team last year and it was Walter Smith, his coach now at Rangers, who gave him the call up. In his debut against Bulgaria he was on target twice and showed that he can come up with the goods on the international stage as well. In five caps for Scotland he has already hit four goals.
"He is an incredible finisher in the box, but he needs someone to provide him with the ball," says Fraser Mackie of the Mail on Sunday. "In Scotland they say that with a high-level midfielder behind him Boyd could be the best scorer to come out of the country in the last 20 years."
In the UEFA Cup though Boyd has yet to find the same kind of form as in the Scottish Premier League and he missed a penalty against Maccabi Haifa in the group stage of the competition.
"I was guarded really tight and I didn't have a good game," says Boyd. "The worst was when I missed the penalty - Haifa's 'keeper took it, but when you miss a penalty it's always the player's fault. It was my worst game this season. But now I'm in much better shape and I hope that the match against Hapoel will be my best."
Meanwhile an injury ravaged Rangers squad arrived in Tel Aviv last night.
Walter Smith's team will be without eight first team members. Smith suffered a double blow when new signings Kevin Thomson and Ugo Ehiogu limped off with hamstring injuries during Saturday's 3-1 win at Kilmarnock and he is also missing Stefan Klos, Dado Prso, Thomas Buffel, Stevie Smith and Andy Webster, while Sasa Papac is ineligible.
Smith warned his side yesterday that they face a tough test for a place in the last 16.
"This will be a tough away leg for us," said Smith. "The aim is to secure a good result that we can take back to Ibrox and go from there next week. Of course the injury situation is not ideal and we have a number of players missing. But we'll just need to get on with it."