After a long history on the fields of Scotland as both adversaries and teammates, Timbers forward Kris Boyd and defender Steven Smith found each other again in the Rose City.
Beginning as youth players – Boyd for Kilmarnock; Smith with Rangers FC since the age of 10 – the two squared off on opposing sides before eventually becoming teammates at Rangers during the 2005-2006 Scottish Premier League season.
“I played against (Kris) a lot in youth teams and growing up,” said the 26-year-old Smith, the Timbers newest acquisition at left back. “When he came to Rangers, we played for 4 or 5 years together, so we know each other pretty well.”
Each separately praised the other’s skill set, and there aren’t many higher honors than having the all-time leading scorer in the SPL suggest your name to the front office and technical staff when asked for input, as Boyd did for Smith.
“He’s a good guy. I’ve grown a friendship with him over a number of years,” Boyd said. “He’s a nice guy and I think everybody in the club will see that and realize that. He’s like every other football player, they’re at their happiest when they’re playing football and that’s what he’ll be looking to do – get on the pitch and start showing people that he’s a good football player.”
The two have been spending countless hours together on-and-off the field since Smith’s arrival as a trialist in mid-April, with the Bellshill-born Smith camping out at Boyd’s apartment.
“I’m due to kick him out,” Boyd quipped following training on Monday afternoon.
Luckily for Boyd, Smith is scheduled to receive the keys to his new place today, after Boyd helped find him an apartment while the former Preston North End defender was back in the United Kingdom sorting out his visa last week.
“When I was back home, (Boyd) sorted it out for me over here so I think he was rushing it through to get me out of his place,” said Smith. “It’ll be good to get my own place and get my family over here.”
Smith has a wedding penciled in for June 15, and will be joined by his soon-to-be bride and his two children (a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old) in the weeks following the ceremony.
So far, however, his acclimation with Timbers has been smooth, he said.
“I think that’s mainly down to (Kris) being here,” Smith said. “Since Day 1, he’s just been his usual self – loud, very loud, actually. It’s good to have him here.
“It’s strange, but I’ve settled in pretty well – not only with the other Scottish people, but the rest of the squad have made me feel welcome and I’ve enjoyed every minute since I’ve been here.”
“It’s good when you’ve got someone who you know to hang around with,” Boyd said. “We’re close and it’s good that he’s here and hopefully over the next month as he gets settled in we can see the best from him in a Portland Timbers uniform.”
The duo’s time at Rangers lasted until the end of the 2009-2010 season, culminating in an SPL title with Boyd finishing as the league’s top scorer with 23 goals.
Each then left the club and joined the English Football League Championship – Boyd at Middlesbrough, Smith at Norwich City – and faced off against each other once more, on Oct. 23, 2010, in a 1-0 Norwich City win.
Smith went from Norwich City to Preston North End (English Football League One) as Boyd moved from Middlesbrough to Nottingham Forest on loan before a short period in Turkey, but their time together at Rangers stayed fresh, eventually leading them both to Portland.
“We’ve know each other for a long time, so when you see the same people every day for 4 or 5 years, then you’re going to be friends with them,” Smith said. “If you want to be successful on the pitch, you’ve got to be friends and you’ve got to trust each other on the pitch and trust each other off the pitch. That’s something that we’ve got.”
The two are also linked on the score sheet, as both Boyd and Smith both scored in a 2-0 Rangers win over Dunfermline on Nov. 11, 2006.
“I think that could’ve been the only goal I’ve ever scored,” Smith said.
“When you’ve played with someone for that long, you know the movements,” Smith said of Boyd’s goal-scoring ability. “People in the squad will get used to where Kris wants the ball and where you’ve got to put it for him to score it. If you get the ball in the box, he will score goals. That’s a fact.”
Clearly, the pair aren’t the only ones on the roster that hail from Scotland. Head coach John Spencer, himself a former Rangers forward, rounds out the trio.
“I think the Scottish mentality is that you always want to win and that’s one thing I’ve realized (Spencer) has brought here and installed that in the squad,” Smith said. “Maybe the results aren’t going for us at the moment, but I think with the attitude and the ability that we’ve got it won’t be long before we start picking up results.”