Dubbed the White Pele, tongue-in-cheek presumably, he had been tipped to become a Scotland regular after impressing and scoring in a B game against Northern Ireland when George Burley was in charge. That was four years ago, however, and in the interim period the winger barely came close to a full call-up under either Burley or his successor Craig Levein.
Boyd, though, has continued to perform admirably in the second tier of English football, primarily for Peterborough United but also during spells on loan at Nottingham Forest and now with Hull City. Such was his burgeoning reputation, and capacity for scoring eye-catching goals, that a raft of clubs, including Reading, were keen to sign him towards the end of the January transfer window. Boyd settled on Forest, where he had spent a few months in 2010, only for the deal to collapse on the rather bizarre grounds that the player had apparently failed an eye test. That allowed Hull to step in last month, Boyd repaying them by scoring twice on his full debut.
Steve Bruce, the Hull manager, recently admitted he had underestimated just how good Boyd is, and it seems he is not the 27-year-old's only admirer. Darren Ferguson, the Peterborough manager, and Alex McLeish, who tried to sign him for Forest, have both sung his praises in recent times, and Gordon Strachan was happy to join the chorus.
"I spoke to Darren Ferguson about him recently and he said he's the best player he's ever worked with," said the Scotland manager. "I tried to sign him when I was at Middlesbrough and it didn't materialise. Big Alex tried to buy him at Nottingham Forest. Between the four of us there's a half-decent manager in there and we all think he's a good player. He is an elegant player, a good passer and he scores a fair amount of goals for an attacking midfield player."
Boyd was one of three uncapped players to make it into Strachan's squad to face Wales and Serbia later this month. There was a call-up for Liam Bridcutt, the Brighton and Hove Albion defensive midfielder who, like Boyd, qualifies for selection via a Scottish grandparent. A former Chelsea youth player, the 23-year-old has Mark McGhee, Strachan's assistant based in Brighton, to thank for his first involvement in international football.
"Liam is somebody I have watched, and Mark McGhee has watched him more than I have for the last year or so," said Strachan. "I've watched him a couple of times through my media work and until six months ago I didn't realise that he was eligible for Scotland. What I see is somebody who understands the game. He wants to get on the ball and he knows how to stop moves. When he gets the ball, he gives you a good pass. That allows you to go and counter attack.
"Also, the fact that Darren [Fletcher] and Scott [Brown] are not there to play in central midfield, we needed somebody to help us in that area. Mark has done his homework on Liam and the type of person he is. Does he want to play, will he be good for the squad?"
The other new face will be rather more familiar to Scotland fans. Gary Mackay-Steven's form with Dundee United over the past year meant it was only a matter of time before international recognition came his way. Mackay-Steven is the sort of player who can get a crowd on their feet although Strachan brushed away the suggestion his ability to entertain was key to his inclusion.
"I don't know about entertaining. Being positive is what he does. If you want entertainment you get one of those ball jugglers who comes on at half time and keeps the ball up for 1000 touches. What you want is real players and, from what I've seen recently, you come away from the game saying, 'he did that, he did this'. This guy is participating in the game at the moment.
"He's a footballer who can do things. I don't really want to get involved in [discussion about] tricks and magic. What he does is vital in today's game because teams work very hard to prevent passing but what they find hard to stop is people beating people."
It says much for the parlous state of Scotland's World Cup campaign that the two forthcoming ties almost seemed secondary at yesterday's squad announcement. Scotland will have cause to fear Wales' Gareth Bale on March 22 given the Tottenham Hotspur player's dazzling form but Strachan preferred to turn that prospect on its head.
"As a manager I don't think I ever played against a side on the top level where I've not thought 'we need to watch him' or that way of playing," he admitted. "You always have to think about what the other team are good at and how you can nullify that. But how can they deal with [Chris] Burke, [James] Forrest, [Shaun] Maloney, and [Steven] Fletcher? [Robert] Snodgrass in the second half [against Estonia] at Aberdeen was terrific. I've got these good players that I can work with."
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