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Macleod can be real deal if he keeps the head

The impression that Scottish football is undergoing an overdue examination of the culture that surrounds it was emphasised at Ibrox on Monday evening.

Kris Boyd backs Ibrox prospect Lewis Macleod to follow in footsteps of Barry Ferguson
Kris Boyd backs Ibrox prospect Lewis Macleod to follow in footsteps of Barry Ferguson

It was not the advice that was being offered to Lewis Macleod that was most interesting, but the identity of the man offering it.

Perhaps the finest Scottish finisher of his generation, Kris Boyd has also been regarded as a luxury player by some sage judges down the years who have been unhappy with his overall contribution. Yet, if the accusations of a rather selfish, individualistic streak seemed justifiable during his pomp then for all that he marked his 31st birthday with the umpteenth hat-trick of his career, the generosity of spirit Boyd showed on and off the field was, for want of a better word, striking.

He had opened the scoring and could have been forgiven for taking a swing when the ball came toward shim a few minutes later, only to step over it and, having drawn all relevant attention, leave teenager Fraser Aird with a simple chance.

A near-identical move a few minutes later saw Boyd properly rewarded for a similarly deceptive dummy when Nicky Clark, rather than shoot, simply slipped the ball back to his senior partner with the Clyde goal at his mercy.

More significant still was the way that, after the match, Boyd twice brought up Macleod's name unprompted in seeking to ensure that the midfielder's contribution to Rangers' domination was properly recognised, even suggesting that the man-of-the-match award he had been given should have gone to a man 11 years his junior.

Yet, just a few days after Ronnie Deila, Celtic's new manager, inadvertently invited comparison with Paul Le Guen, the ill-starred former Rangers boss, when it emerged that he is as unimpressed with the traditional Scottish footballer's diet as Le Guen had been, Boyd also recognised that dangers now face Macleod if he is to fulfil his promise.

"It would be wrong for me to sit here and put a lot of pressure on his shoulders. You all see what a talent he is, but at the end of the day there's been a lot of talent come through this club and come through Scottish clubs that have not really gone on and progressed the way they should have," Boyd observed.

Since Boyd's name, along with that of his former club captain, has been inextricably linked with the downfall of Le Guen and his apparent problem with the nutritional content of the dubious delicacy that is Monster Munch, what he went on to say seemed ever more relevant.

"The last one that's really gone to the top is Barry Ferguson. I don't think there's really anybody else..." Boyd mused, before adding: "Scott Brown, there's another one that's a fantastic player. But I think Lewis Macleod could go on to become one of those if he keeps training properly the way he does, day-in, day-out and applies himself properly. I think he listens to a lot of the older ones who are telling him what to do."

In praising his performance in the 8-1 demolition of Clyde, Boyd reckoned that a key factor is that Macleod already seems to understand what is required.

"A lot of young kids in Scotland get carried away with themselves and probably believe the hype that's there so they'll go on the way a lot of youngsters do and they'll end up falling by the wayside. But I think Lewis Macleod has got his head screwed on properly and I think he's enjoying his football, he's enjoying being here," said Boyd.

Coming from a man who turned 31 on Monday but who is looking as fit and energetic as ever, the words carry additional weight because they come from one who has begun to carve out a secondary career as an articulate and shrewd pundit in the broadcast media.

While that may suggest he is looking towards his options beyond his playing days, in the short and medium term Boyd's full attention must be devoted to helping Rangers regain the status he had when he last played for them, during a run of three successive Premier League title wins. If they are to do that he believes Macleod is the sort of player who can play a key role.

"He's seen the tough times at this club, but hopefully he stays around and if we all stick together as a team and he's part of that team I think we can win this league and get up and pose a challenge next year," Boyd reckoned.

All of which said, you somehow sense that reviving Rangers is not the only challenge that may present itself to Macleod and other emerging talents such as Aird in the weeks and months ahead.

However, as they assess their options as and when they arise, they would do well to pay attention to one who, it might be said a little belatedly, seems to have a firm grasp of what is required to emerge from what remains a flawed sporting culture.

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