THE first sign that living in the United States was having an effect on Kris Boyd came in the form of a television advert.
The Ayrshire accent had been softened a touch for the benefit of his Oregon audience but the voiceover was undoubtedly Boyd as he enthused about "getting a good night's sleep" thanks to his comfortable new mattress.
Granted, there would have been more than a few dollars in it for him but that Boyd would agree to it at all seemed to signal something of a personal metamorphosis.
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The Boyd who played for Rangers would never have done it. Not for all the Monster Munch in the world. In private he was a sparky, quick-witted individual with an eye for mischief but, for whatever reason, that side of his personality rarely came across in interviews when he would seem surly, almost aggressive, as he stared at a fixed point on the floor. He was a reluctant subject to say the least.
Boyd's playing career took a nosedive after he left Ibrox but he still gained plenty from his experiences away from home. In America, in particular, a year with Portland Timbers seemed to open his eyes.
He saw the confidence of teenage team-mates as they handled interview requests and dealt with senior management and felt slightly ashamed that his first reaction was usually to bow his head and walk on by. He has returned to Scotland a changed man.
His form with Kilmarnock has earned him a nod in the Cheque Centre/PFA Scotland Player of the Year awards, while he also seems more comfortable with the media to the point where he makes regular appearances on the radio. At 30, he has evidently mellowed and matured with age.
"I don't think, without me leaving Scotland or going abroad, I would be sitting here the same player, the same person," he admitted. "I went away and I feel as though I learned a lot more in life in general. I'm pleased to sit here and say that I'm a far better person for it.
"The penny dropped when I went to America and saw young kids at 17 and 18 years old training and then doing interviews. At the end of the season, you'll go and get your strip off the president and things like that.
"You've got me who will walk past everybody and not say a word and you've got the young kids who will stand up and do a 10- to 15-minute speech and you think 'what's the difference?' That's the way they are brought up.
"Here, with the Old Firm especially, there is a caginess, where you are protected. But I don't think it's a good protection. Everybody will say that you go to Rangers or Celtic and you change. That's not the case. Everybody around about you changes."
Moving to Rangers was the realisation of a childhood dream for Boyd. He spent four-and-a-half trophy-laden seasons with Ibrox, scoring goals at such a rate that he overtook Henrik Larsson as the Scottish Premier League's all-time scorer. Off the field, however, he felt he was not his own man.
Unlike at Kilmarnock, where he had been free to do and say largely as he pleased, every interview at Rangers was scheduled and overseen by a team of press officers who, in turn, were guided by their superiors at board level. In a fairly frank admission, Boyd says he found the whole process suffocating.
"At Rangers and Celtic you don't really get the chance to say what you want to say," he added. "It grows arms and legs. Everything is structured. When you guys [the media] started, you would probably go out with somebody, have lunch or whatever. At Rangers and Celtic it doesn't happen.
"You are put up in front of a media group, you're told what you're doing. I don't agree with it because I think players become 'us versus them' and it doesn't create a good togetherness.
"We need you [the press] and you need us. For football players, there should be a relationship with newspapers because it's a big part of culture. Everybody wants to read what players are thinking."
And what about his decision to embrace more media work now? "I just think it's right. I've got a good knowledge of the game, I know what I'm speaking about. It's easy for people to finish their careers and say 'I'm going to do media work, I want to make money.'
"For me, it's not like that. I don't need it. I know the game, there are relevant points to speak about and you can pass on knowledge and help young kids. I've been training the under-17s at Kilmarnock and there's nothing better than seeing young kids with smiles on their faces who are enjoying football."