Enthusiastic fans met Kris Boyd at the airport in Oregon, one placing a Portland Timbers’ club scarf around his neck. The Scottish striker’s obvious discomfort at the colour scheme was duly captured in a photograph. For one of the most prolific strikers in the history of Glasgow Rangers, where blue is the colour, green and white is taboo. That pattern belongs to long-time city rivals Celtic, the old enemy.
“It was a bit weird at first when that green scarf got put on me,” Boyd, who scored 101 goals in 143 appearances for Rangers between 2006 and 2010, told FIFA.com with a good-natured laugh. “You’re either blue or green and white. But now I’m Portland green, and that’s that.”
While the colour shock may have thrown him, the familiar weather of the rainy US Pacific Northwest reminded Boyd straightaway of his Scottish homeland. “It was lashing rain when I got on the plane in Glasgow and it was lashing when I got off in Portland,” he joked after the 6000-plus mile journey.
Boyd is a no-frills, old-fashioned No9, capped 18 times for Scotland’s national team. He arrives in Portland hoping to rebuild his career, which went off the rails after a pair of ill-fated moves, first to Middlesbrough in England and then to Turkish outfit Eskisehirspor. “I haven’t had a lot of regular football in the last six months, and I’m just eager to get back to it,” said Boyd, once one of the most feared goal-getters in the British Isles; his 164 goals for Rangers and hometown club Kilmarnock single him out as the all-time leading scorer in the history of the modern Scottish Premier League, more even than Celtic legend Henrik Larsson.
Just as Boyd himself is in need of a boost, so too is his new club. In only their second season in Major League Soccer, the USA’s top flight, the Portland Timbers are hungry for goals. Coach John Spencer, himself a former Scottish international and Rangers man, upon hearing of Boyd’s availability, made his signature top priority. “He is here for one reason and one reason only: to score goals,” said Spencer of his 28-year-old countryman.
This is the kind of pressure Boyd relishes. “For a striker, it’s the right kind of pressure,” said the forward, who will immediately become the main attacking weapon for a team that finished third-worst in last season’s scoring tables, missing out on the play-offs. “I always want to score and it’s the kind of thing I’m used to.”
Passion for the fans
Only a few hours after sorting out his work permit and stepping off the long flight from Glasgow, Boyd was busy at work in training. He is eager to shake off an ankle knock and hone his scoring form in hopes of impressing the fans, some of MLS' most colourful and dedicated. “The fans are amazing here, I was really surprised,” said the Scot, who has played in numerous Old Firm clashes between Rangers and Celtic, among the most passionate and flammable derbies in all the world.
“They make a big noise here and they have the whole ground bouncing,” he added of the fans in the stands, who, despite the on-field disappointments of last season, averaged just under 19,000 per game at their Jeld-Wen Field, sixth-best in the 18-team league.
“It’s not all Celtic in Rangers in Scotland either,” added Boyd. “Some of the clubs have smaller grounds, but it’s the passion that counts. I can tell the fans here in Portland are passionate. They will push us, and we will do our all to reward them with goals and results.”
Boyd has been putting in extra sessions and working with a fitness coach to be ready for the Timbers’ 12 March opener against Philadelphia Union, doing his best to shake off the rust. “This is the league where I want to be,” said Boyd, who considered joining Houston Dynamo before his fateful chat with Spencer. “Look at the quality and how it’s gone up over the last few years – you’ve got David Beckham and Thierry Henry and Robbie Keane over here.
“It’s a chance for me to get a new start,” added Boyd, who, if he can find a way back to his scoring best, could become an idol in green and white as he once was in blue.