Jefferies fears moving trend

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The Independent Online

In a week in which Rangers displayed good housekeeping off the field, it would be more than a touch ungracious if Kris Boyd were to take Kilmarnock to the cleaners today. However, there is every chance of that happening when the prolific striker goes back to the club who raised him.

Boyd's contract situation meant that he was stolen for a mere £400,000 when he moved to Ibrox last January - such prudence was partly responsible for the £4.3 million profit last season that Rangers announced in midweek - and that was underlined as he finished 2005-06 as the top scorer for both clubs.

The 18 he netted at Kilmarnock before January were eclipsed by 19 for Rangers, turning him into the top scorer in the Scottish Premier League. Yet despite that impressive statistic, Paul Le Guen kept the 22-year-old striker on the bench for the first three games until unleashing him last week against Hearts, when, you've guessed it, he scored both goals.

Boyd scored on both occasions he met Kilmarnock last season, and the Rugby Park side will face a huge task today. They have not won at home to Rangers since 1994 and have not even taken a point since 2002.

Kilmarnock's success at raising players makes it hard to keep the vultures away. Derby County are now keen on Jim Jefferies' latest prodigy, the teenager Steven Naismith, while Rangers took another teenager away, Rory Loy, even though he had not played a first-team game, leaving Kilmarnock with a £25,000 cheque that did not even cover the cost of developing the youngster.

"Sometimes, when you build a side and do well, your biggest problem is trying to keep players," reflected Jefferies. The Kilmarnock manager has to peg wages and trim £1m from his budget each season. But those modest salaries make his players vulnerable to asset-stripping.

"If you look at what some of the clubs are doing now, it has gone full cycle," he said. "Jim McLean used to get slaughtered for putting kids on five-year contracts at Dundee United in the 1980s, but recently Hibernian and Hearts have been doing the same.

"It is a worry, and we saw it during the summer with Loy going to Rangers before he had even played in our first team. But, because he was out of contract, there was not much we could do. The compensation was pretty poor and we would rather have kept the player than receive what we did. All you can do is say to the players they will be a lot quicker getting to the first team here than they will at Ibrox."

Can Jefferies deliver an unlikely double by beating Rangers and ensuring a barren day for Boyd? "It's a record that has to end some time," he smiled.

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