KRIS BOYD is proving remarkably adept at keeping his feet on the ground while reaching for the stars. The 22-year-old has scored 11 goals in 15 starts in all competitions for Kilmarnock this season, despite the distraction of declining a move to Cardiff City during the previous transfer window, and the increasing cacophany of speculation on the West of Scotland grapevine that suggests he is bound for Ibrox instead when his contract expires next summer.

Regardless of the current managerial machinations in Govan, Boyd told the Sunday Herald last night that this season will definitely be his last at the Rugby Park club, and that his first choice is indeed to move to his boyhood heroes, whether it occurs in January or next summer. The rest may be shrouded in fresh uncertainty, but with 62 goals in his 110 starts for Kilmarnock, Boyd rarely fails to achieve his goals.

"Being a Rangers fan, that would be my first choice, " Boyd told the Sunday Herald. "But if the chance doesn't come I am going to have to look elsewhere. I will need to wait until January or the summer to see what clubs become available for me to choose from. At the end of the day if you are scoring goals and you are going out of contract you are always going to be linked with clubs."

Boyd grew up idolising the likes of Mark Hateley and Ally McCoist and actually began his football education at Rangers, playing in a number of trial matches at the club before youth coach Alan Robertson took him back to his native Ayrshire along with current teammates Steven Naismith and Gary McDonald.

But having been handed his domestic and then European debuts by Bobby Williamson, and gradually increasing his seasonal goalscoring tally every year under Jim Jefferies and Billy Brown, there is also a debt owed to Kilmarnock. Now that things have reached a crossroads, and the two-year extension he was offered this season remains on the table, but unsigned, Boyd knows he must put himself - and his three-year old daughter Brook - first. "You are in a business where, at the end of the day, you have to look after yourself first, " said Boyd.

"Obviously I like Kilmarnock as a club, they have given me a chance at every level and I am still grateful to this day to them for giving me my debut. But there is a time and a place where you have to take everything into consideration and I feel I just have to go forward a step, and take my career on. People could say 'why is he wanting to move on at this stage?', but the next couple of years will be crucial.

"At the moment I have still got youth on my side and it is a lot easier for people totake a chance if you are 22 rather than 25." Maybe then Walter Smith may even take a chance on the top Scottish scorer with a place in the Scotland squad.

Whether he moves on in January or remains until the summer seems a trivial distinction, yet it is one which could yet be crucial to cash-strapped Kilmarnock.

The Rugby Park club had accepted a bid worth GBP500,000 in instalments when Boyd got as far as passing a medical at Cardiff in the summer before flying back with his father Brian, but any compensation fee for the player, who will still be under 24, should another Scottish team try to steal him is likely to be considerably less significant.

Nonetheless, with funds unlikely to be reinvested and the player spearheading the club's charge to fifth place in the SPL table, Jefferies would prefer to keep hold of the player for as long as possible. The club's accountants might not feel the same way. "I would want him as long as I could have him, " said Jefferies, whose top priority remains convincing the player to sign that contract extension. "At the end of the season is better for me, because I have then got him longer. But that might be out of our hands if Kris wants to move and it is an offer that we cannot turn down."

Sitting within Kilmarnock's training camp in Bearsden, Jefferies does not have enough room on his wage bill to be overly sentimental to players who may have outgrown the club.

For all the player's fantastic attributes, Jefferies worries as much for the loss of a character and focal point in the dressing room.

Interestingly, Jefferies believes the striker could yet become even more fearsome if he learns to add more composure on oneto-ones and uses his 6ft 1in frame more aggressively.

"He's got a lot to learn, but he has fantastic attributes, " said Jefferies. "He's got strength but he should use it more, he can knock players over that he can handle, but needs to use it better against bigger players, like the way [ John] Hartson or [Dado] Prso do.

"He is quick, if he sees a chance he puts a yard on. People think I am slaughtering him, but I also think he is better instinctively."

Exactly whether those instincts can permit the player to handle the pressure of being relied upon to score goals for Rangers, who currently can't buy a goal, or a club of similar stature, is another matter.

"I don't think my goalscoring record can be spoken about, but it is totally different at a higher level, " Boyd said.

"You are probably going to get more chances, but you are probably going to get more tightly marked. But that is a pressure I would like to have put on myself."

Few figures within Scottish football will be following developments at Ibrox more closely in the next couple of weeks than Boyd.