Against all odds, and certainly against Walter Smith’s better judgment, Rangers’ No.9 started an Old Firm derby. He lasted 41 minutes before being escorted off the pitch like a disorientated drunk. Boyd crammed an uncommon amount of action into his cameo: sliding through a perfect pass for Kenny Miller, claiming a second assist by mistiming a jump entirely and, finally, sustaining a whack on his forehead in a challenge from Landy N’Guemo.

History could prove this to have been Boyd’s last appearance of any significance in a Glasgow derby. The striker is no nearer resolving the contractual impasse that will enable him to sign a pre-contract agreement elsewhere in January. Given Rangers’ brittle financial health, the club would rather receive a fee of any sort than lose their habitual top goalscorer on a Bosman midway through their championship defence.

There is another scenario that, despite its mutual temptations, remains the least likely to unfold. Rangers could make Boyd an offer he can’t refuse to extend his stay. Since Boyd was believed, at least in tabloid land, to have rejected a £50,000-per-week life-changing experience in Turkey, and a more tempting £20,000-per-week bid by Birmingham City, it would require a considerable hike on his current income – one that is not believed to be anywhere near Rangers’ highest bracket – to convince him to remain as a bit-part player.

Smith would only be prolonging a masochistic streak by continuing a relationship with Boyd that is as cordial on the training ground as it is unfulfilling on the proving ground. There is, of course, no guarantee that Smith himself will still be in charge beyond January, since his contract actually expires before Boyd’s, but there is now mounting evidence to suggest the striker, despite his unexpected promotion on Sunday, has fallen further down the batting order.

The wrecking-ball return of Kyle Lafferty, who replaced Boyd, is a timely one for a team that had missed the Northern Irishman’s pace and physical attributes. Lafferty’s Rangers career can be measured in small progressive steps punctuated by sizeable setbacks. They did not spend in excess of £3m, especially not in this financial climate, for a substitute and the arrival of Jerome Rothen as a bona fide left winger will remove the need for Lafferty to operate as a giraffe-like wide player.

In his absence, Steven Naismith enhanced his reputation as an unconventional centre forward and has the international distinction to back-up his claim. Naismith, out of necessity, was re-assigned to the right side of midfield to offset Rangers’ raft of injuries on Sunday. His creditable performance against Sevilla – where he operated as a willing one-man attacking band – suggests he is also now ahead of Boyd in the queue for big-game exposure.

Kenny Miller’s overdue return to goalscoring form has coincided with a sprightlier appearance. He has taken to Thai massage to alleviate the pain of a long-standing nerve problem and will visit a German specialist during the international break for a long-term solution. On Sunday, he reiterated why he is such a favourite of Smith’s. His combination of pace, power and penetration terrorised Glenn Loovens and showed the kind of devastating player he can become. Even without his goals, Miller’s industry will remain a key feature of Rangers’ Champions League adventures, especially away from home.

Nacho Novo’s status as irrepressible substitute has been unaffected by Rangers’ recent fluctuating fortunes and this low-maintenance employee might be one of the few players to have their contracts renewed in the interests of continuity.

All of which seems destined to render Boyd a bystander for the most meaningful matches of the season, especially away from home. The 26-year-old is arguably one of Rangers’ greatest enigmas but he is also a victim of circumstance at Ibrox. Had his instinctive knack of finding the net been available during the club’s most glamorous eras, his deficiencies would not be highlighted nearly as regularly.

His goal ratio is astonishing considering how infrequently he appears, but during this period of grim mediocrity for Rangers, and Scottish football in general, his weaknesses are highlighted and exposed more often than his strengths are.

Imagine, for example, Boyd in mid-1990s: Laudrup, Gascoigne, Mikhailitchenko and Huistra in support, with Mark Hateley nodding down chance after chance. Walter Smith will happily vouch for the superior skill set of Ally McCoist but who – except, famously, Graeme Souness – focused on the all-time great goalscorer’s link-up play of work ethic when he was banging in goals on a weekly basis?

More recently, Boyd could not have failed to score in Dick Advocaat’s team. Heck, Rod Wallace left Leeds United on a free transfer and reinvented himself as a goal machine in his first two seasons at Ibrox. Boyd would easily have taken the burden off Tore Andre Flo and Michael Mols and been a far more prudent investment than Marcus Gayle or Stephane Guivarc’h.

All this, of course, is hypothetical nonsense but only when highlighting how far Rangers’ overall quality has fallen can Boyd’s singular area of expertise be fully appreciated.

In the here and now, his fitness and sharpness will only worsen with prolonged patches of inactivity and it is doubtful if he still gets the same kick out of scoring against non-hazardous SPL fodder.

His departure, whether in January or the summer, appears inevitable. It would be as much a result of Rangers’ limitations as his own.