Kris Boyd On Rangers, Walter Smith And Sky Sports Punditry Alongside Chris Sutton

Kris Boyd On Rangers, Walter Smith And Sky Sports Punditry Alongside Chris Sutton

An interview with Kris Boyd, by Callum McFadden for WFi.

You are set to play in the upcoming Masters Football tournament in Glasgow with some of your former Rangers teammates such as Kenny Miller and Lee McCulloch. Are you looking forward to playing alongside them again?

“I am really looking forward to playing alongside them again because we only tend to catch up in the pub now rather than being on the pitch together (laughs).

“Kenny will feel at home back on the pitch with me once I get him to do all of my running again.

“Playing in the Masters is a great experience that we all enjoyed last year so we are looking forward to being back again to take on legends from Celtic, Hearts and Hibs this time.”

If we can rewind back to the start of your playing career, you started at Kilmarnock as a teenager and played for the club for several years before moving to Rangers in 2006. How would you reflect on those early days at Rugby Park? 

“I enjoyed my early years at Kilmarnock in the youth team and then in the first team.

“It was great to be around the first team at the age of 16 and train with players such as Ally McCoist, Paul Wright and Mark Roberts.

“To learn from them was a great experience and it was brilliant to be able to go on and play alongside them for the first team.

“Training sessions in those days were tough under Bobby Williamson who gave me my first team debut and then under Jim Jeffries and Billy Brown.”

Jim and Billy are known as big characters in Scottish football, what were they like to work with? 

“They were amazing with me. It was an exciting period for the club when they arrived because they had been successful at Hearts in the past so we knew we were getting a proper management team.

“We recruited well under them with players such as Steve Fulton and Gary Locke coming into the football club which enabled us to challenge in the top half of the league.

“Looking back, we should have achieved more than we did because we had a good blend of youth coming through and experienced players.

“In regards to Jim and Billy, they were fiery characters who stood me in good stead in my career especially as I was to play under Walter Smith in the years to come.”

Kris Boyd

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND – JANUARY 02: Ex Rangers player Kris Boyd is seen during the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership match between Rangers and Celtic at Ibrox Stadium on January 02, 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

You were linked with various English clubs but it was Rangers who you swapped Kilmarnock for in 2006. Was that move a no-brainer for you?

“Absolutely. I was a boyhood Rangers fan so it was a dream come true for me to be able to sign for them and make that step up.

“I was close to signing for Cardiff City prior to Rangers interest in me but once I knew that Rangers wanted to sign me, there was no other place I wanted to play.

“I was determined to make a success of my time at Rangers because many players have been given the opportunity to represent the club and not all of them have taken it.

“So, I am incredibly proud to have not only played for Rangers but won every domestic trophy in Scotland with the club in addition to reaching a UEFA Cup final too.”

You scored goals in both domestic cup finals when you won them with Rangers in addition to winning two league titles. How do you reflect on your time at Ibrox overall? 

“The first trophy that we won was the League Cup against Dundee United and that was important for the group because winning one trophy gives you the desire to win more.

“I always wind up Lee McCulloch about that game because Walter Smith started him upfront ahead of me before I was needed to come on and rescue the team twice before scoring the winning penalty.

“You want to get the job done in finals. They are only about winning. There is no other option.

“Scoring in both domestic cup finals and scoring goals in league title-winning campaigns was special.

“Winning a league title means so much to you as a player because you have to be the best team in the country for a year to be able to lift that trophy so when you do, the feeling is incredible.

“Scoring lots of goals is a wonderful feeling as a striker but winning trophies is crucial to your game too especially now when you look back as a former player.”

What was Walter Smith like to work under?

“Walter was one of the best managers that Scotland has ever produced so to be able to play for him was unbelievable.

“He always got the best out of his teams and knew how to build teams to be able to compete on multiple fronts as he showcased when we reached the 2008 UEFA cup final.

“The nucleus of the team at Rangers at that time was British based but he knew that we required extra flair and so recruited Pedro Mendes who was great for us in that season.

“Walter was always in control and he was a great manager for Rangers and for the Scotland National team.

“With Scotland, we defeated France under Walter which was a momentous result especially when you look back on it now.

“It is incredibly sad that he is no longer with us because not only was he a great football manager but he was a gentleman too.

“He would do anything for anyone. He was generous and kind with his time. I miss him hugely.

“Just look at how many of his former players have went on to become football managers or coaches, that also shows you how inspiring Walter was.”

In addition to the trophies that you won at Rangers, you also scored hundreds of goals for the club. What is the key to consistent goal scoring in your opinion? 

“Having good teammates. That is my honest opinion.

“Unless you are an exceptional player who can create chances and score goals out of nothing, you require service from your teammates to allow you the opportunities to score goals.

“I was fortunate to play with top players for club and country who gave me the platform to do what I was most comfortable at which was scoring goals.

“I owe a lot to them.”

You had another two spells at Kilmarnock in your career. You played under Kenny Shiels and Allan Johnston in your second spell. Alexei Eremenko was at the club during that time. How good was he and are you surprised he never played at a higher level, with all due respect to Kilmarnock?

“Alexei was a phenomenal football and I often wonder why he wasn’t playing at the very highest level because he had everything to his game.

“He could create chances out of nothing for himself and create chances for me and the other forward players at the club.”

In the last of those spells at Kilmarnock, you played under Steve Clarke. How impressive was he as a coach?

“Walter Smith was the best manager that I worked under but Steve Clarke was the best coach on the grass that I worked with in my career.

“Steve took Kilmarnock from being a team struggling to stay in the top flight to being a team who could compete with everyone in the league including Celtic and Rangers.

“That was shown by us finishing 3rd and qualifying for European football in his last season which was a truly outstanding achievement.

“Under Steve, you felt like Kilmarnock were going somewhere and he has continued to create that ethos with the Scotland national team.

“He qualified the men’s team for their first major tournament in decades and he has also defeated nations such as Spain and Norway in recent times in World Cup qualifying which is fantastic to see.

“I was close to retiring before he arrived at Kilmarnock but he talked me out of it and I am so glad that he did because it was amazing to be able to work under him and learn from him.”

After retirement from the game, you have become a pundit with Sky Sports. Was that the obvious next step for you or did you consider management?

“I had fully intended to go into coaching in all honesty. I got my UEFA pro licence while I was still playing at Kilmarnock.

“I also coached with the youth team at the club in my latter years as a player and I loved every minute of that.

“However, there was an opportunity to do a few bits and bobs for Sky Sports covering Scottish football as I was coming to the end of my playing days.

“I enjoyed the punditry side and the feedback from the producers was good.

“Despite that, I was not naive to think that I did not need to improve and even now, I am still looking to continually improve in what I do.

“Following a few appearances on Sky, Neil McCann who was their main pundit at the time moved on to become manager of Dundee and there was a vacant position at Sky which was offered to me.

“I grasped the opportunity and I have loved every minute of it since.

“I love covering Scottish football because I believe that our game is entertaining and can continue to grow.

“I have also had the opportunity to work on Soccer Saturday which is one of the most iconic football shows in the U.K.

“I worked with Jeff Stelling for a couple of years on the show and I am now enjoying working with Simon Thomas who will put his own spin on hosting the show going forward.”

Another man that you now work with is Chris Sutton who has just moved to Sky from a rival broadcaster. Many see you two working together as being a box office partnership for Scottish football. Are you enjoying sparring with Chris so far?

“I think it is great for Sky and coverage of Scottish football that we now have Chris Sutton on board.

“He has worked on Premier League football in recent years but he still always talks up Scottish football at every opportunity and shows a real interest and passion for our game.

“Some people will say that Chris likes to slag off Rangers and I like to slag off Celtic but we are far more than those opinions.

“We both work hard to research our points of view and to study what is going on across Scottish football so that we can have a strong and informed debate when we work together.

“I look forward to sparring with him this season, for sure, and I have no doubt that there will be a few knockouts as the season goes on.”

Finally, Kris, how much are you looking forward to playing in front of a large crowd of fans again as part of the upcoming Masters Football in Glasgow? 

“I can’t wait! Fans make football at all levels and the crowd who attend the masters are always passionate and drive each team on.

“I am also sure that some of the kids who come along to watch the games will be there watching there mum and dads heroes or their granny and grandads heroes rather than their own.

“I just hope that I am the on the side of the mums and dads rather than the grannies and grandads (laughs).

“But in all seriousness, it will be great to be back on the pitch with teammates who I achieved a lot with and against rivals who I enjoyed competing against too.”

Kris Boyd was speaking to WFi ahead of the Scottish Masters Cup 2023 at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow on the 9th of September.

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