Forget Henry and Ronaldo, the deadliest striker in the world plays for Gretna

His name is Kenny Deuchar and he is a qualified doctor. The game's most prolific striker reveals his prescription for goals to Nick Harris
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The Independent Football

Kenny Deuchar, the most efficient goalscorer in world football, is sitting at his kitchen table, laughing. Outside, an overnight blizzard has blanketed the Stirlingshire countryside in snow, and Deuchar, who only 12 hours earlier suffered a cup exit 100 miles away, has not had much sleep after the slow journey home. Yet he is already enthused about his next game, and with good reason.

Kenny Deuchar, the most efficient goalscorer in world football, is sitting at his kitchen table, laughing. Outside, an overnight blizzard has blanketed the Stirlingshire countryside in snow, and Deuchar, who only 12 hours earlier suffered a cup exit 100 miles away, has not had much sleep after the slow journey home. Yet he is already enthused about his next game, and with good reason.

"I just want to score every time I go on to the pitch," says the 24-year-old Scot, explaining how it feels to be out-shooting the rest of the planet's professionals. Thierry Henry trails in his wake, as do Samuel Eto'o, Vincenzo Montella and chart-topping hitmen in leagues everywhere from Argentina to Armenia.

Though Deuchar's club, Gretna of the Scottish Third Division, are hardly in the big time, they aspire to be. They have a flamboyant multimillionaire owner. They are the only professional club in their division. They are threatening to elope with the title, having scored 74 goals in 21 games. And Deuchar, the best man of the campaign, has a record that no player, in any league, would jilt.

After a handful of substitute appearances up to September, he has scored 22 times in 15 starts, or 1.47 goals per game. Henry's ratio is less than half that, or 0.7 goals per game. The only other professional who comes close to Deuchar is Tomasz Frankowski, of Wisla Krakow in Poland, with 19 goals in 13 starts for a ratio of 1.46. But he has not scored three goals in two FA Cup games as well. Deuchar has, one of them in the no-disgrace 4-3 Scottish FA Cup defeat to Dundee United of the Scottish Premier League on Monday.

"I'd be happy to play crap as long as I score," Deuchar says. "But I'm pleased with my progress, improving my touch, sharpness, pace. And the goals have come."

It has been a remarkable season for a remarkable player. Deuchar is also a qualified doctor, taking a career break from medicine to pursue his footballing dreams. Until this season, they were never to the fore. His studies were, which was perhaps no surprise with a GP father. He even stayed at school an extra year, although this was mainly so he could spend his days in the gym playing basketball. At 6ft 3in, he wanted to represent Scotland. He did not make it, although he was Scotland's Young Basketball Player of the Year before enrolling at Dundee University in 1998.

Falkirk offered him part-time terms at the same time. He accepted, only to break his leg at 19, spend nine months recovering, then break it again. "I know what it's like to have opportunity taken away," he said. "At any moment, it could all be over. You've got to take your chances when you get them. That's what I'm doing now."

He played sporadically with Falkirk between 1998 and 2002, while also studying full-time, before transferring, again as a part-timer, to East Fife. The football was fine but combining it with a fifth year's study, then a year of hospital work, was "a nightmare. I was only training once a week, then working a night shift Friday, playing Saturday. It wasn't easy."

Still, in two seasons with East Fife, he managed 31 goals in 61 starts, meaning that when his crunch decision about his future arose last summer, there were options available.

"I was thinking about full-time football but it was a gamble. There were a few whispers from the First Division. Then my agent said Gretna were desperate to sign me. I said 'Gretna? You're kidding!'

"Rowan [Alexander, Gretna's manager] phoned me and invited me to see what they were all about. I couldn't believe what he was telling me. He said they wanted to get to the Premier League, and quickly, and that they had [owner] Brooks [Mileson] backing them.

"The set-up was very professional. But I still wasn't sure. Rowan said, 'Just meet Brooks and you'll sign.' I thought, 'Aye, right, course I will.' But I did."

The clincher was Mileson, a character Deuchar says, "You wouldn't believe could possibly exist until you meet him." Born on a Sunderland council estate, Gretna's owner broke his back while messing around in a quarry aged 11 but overcame myriad hurdles to amass a fortune via his insurance businesses. Now 57, he is ponytailed, smokes 100 a day and claims to live on Lucozade. A long-standing philanthropist, he has sponsored "40-odd" football clubs, including Carlisle and umpteen non-League sides, but says he is devoted to Gretna, who were admitted to the Scottish League - from England's Northern Premier League - in 2002.

Among the perks he bestows at Gretna are goodies for the fans, including free admission for everyone to this week's cup game. For exceptional player performances, the reward is a week's use of his Jaguar sports car or his Aston Martin Vanquish.

"From day one, it's been brilliant," says Deuchar of Mileson's Gretna. "How could it not be when I'm doing my hobby for living? And it's because of the backing. If Brooks says something, he delivers. He really loves it. He said earlier this season that seeing us win 2-1 against Peterhead gave him a bigger buzz than selling a couple of companies for £40m. And I believe him."

Deuchar's own biggest buzz came on New Year's Day, after he had written to Jeff Stelling, the host of Sky Sports' Soccer Saturday show, to thank Stelling for all the "Good Doctor" name checks when he scored. Deuchar also mentioned that his gran, Mae, was Stelling's biggest fan.

"Then I scored at Montrose that day and my gran got a mention too! And when I got a second, Jeff Stelling said 'Good news, Mae. Your boy's done it again.' My gran was buzzing for days."

And what of the future? "My best season ever, for Denny Boys' Club Under-12s, was 27 goals, from midfield. So what I really want is to get to 28 goals." Two more games should do it, then.

GOALS UNLIMITED: THE GLOBAL HITMEN

Leading league goalscorers in world football this season

ENGLAND & SCOTLAND

League Top scorer Goals Starts Gls/gm
Premiership Thierry Henry (Arsenal) 16 23 0.70
Championship Nathan Ellington (Wigan) 17 28 0.61
League One Stuart Elliott (Hull) 21 23 0.91
League Two Phil Jevons (Yeovil) 17 26 0.65
Scottish PL John Hartson (Celtic) 16 22 0.73
Scottish 1 Owen Coyle (Airdrie) 13 23 0.57
Scottish 2 David Graham (Stranraer) 14 20 0.70
Scottish 3 Kenny Deuchar (Gretna) 22 15 1.47

EUROPE'S MAJOR LEAGUES

Italy Vincenzo Montella (Roma) 16 15 1.07
Portugal Liedson (Sporting) 15 17 0.88
Germany Marek Mintal (Nuremberg) 13 17 0.77
Netherlands Dirk Kuijt (Feyenoord) 13 17 0.77
Spain Samuel Eto'o (Barcelona) 14 19 0.74
France Mohamed Kallon (Monaco) 10 18 0.56

EUROPE: SELECTED OTHERS

Poland Tomasz Frankowski (W Krakow) 19 13 1.46
Bulgaria Martin Kamburov (Lok Plovdiv) 15 15 1.00
Turkey Fatih Tekke (Trabzonspor) 15 17 0.88
*Norway Frode Johnsen (Rosenborg) 19 26 0.73
Austria Christian Mayrleb (SV Pasching) 15 21 0.71
*Ireland Jason Byrne (Shelbourne) 25 36 0.69
*Russia Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Zenit) 18 30 0.60
Belgium Bosko Balaban (Club Bruges) 9 15 0.60

REST OF THE WORLD: SELECTED OTHERS

South Africa Collins Mbesuma (Kaizer Chiefs) 7 8 0.88
*Japan Emerson (Urawa Red D'monds) 27 32 0.84
*Australia Ante Milicic (Parramatta Power) 19 24 0.79
*China Kwame Ayew (Shanghai Int.) 17 22 0.77
*Brazil Washington (Atl Paranaense) 34 46 0.74
Argentina Lisandro Lopez (Racing Club) 12 17 0.71
Morocco Didier Keipa (Club Omnisport) 6 15 0.40

*=league season recently completed or, if summer league, last year's.

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