SHEFFIELD, ENGLAND - MARCH 08: Kris Boyd of Nottingham Forest in action during the npower Championship match between Sheffield United and Nottingham Forest at Bramall Lane on March 8, 2011 in Sheffield, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Follow the yellow brick road, and there might be a powerful wizard at the end able to grant you whatever your heart desires. Or, as so often we find, after having stumbled through the many potholes on that road you come to the end of it only to be met by an eccentric myth of a person capable only of offering up false promises and trinkets. In the business of player transfers, these promises typically come down to playing time and money--quite often with a heavy emphasis on the money aspect--which is why a number of notable overseas players offered contracts with Major League Soccer clubs have gone elsewhere.
Granted, were any of us afforded the chance to be in a similar situation, a contract promising the grander payday would likely be taken over the one on offer in the US or Canada, even if it meant having to consult an idiot's guide to the Chinese language. Still though, while Kris Boyd decides whether to join Houston Dynamo or keep traveling down that road in search of greater riches, he might wish to consider some cautionary tales of fellow Scotsmen who, when offered up a deal by Houston, chose to pass only to find a possible U turn at journey's end.
During Dominic Kinnear's tenure, Houston has shown a certain preference toward scouring Scotland when looking abroad for players. Considering one of the first former Scottish Premier League players brought to Space City was Paul Dalglish in the summer of that 2006 MLS Cup season, Naranja supporters might have little complaint with their soccer being served up with cock a-leekie soup. For 2008 Kinnear drafted in Englishman Tony Caig to serve as Pat Onstad's backup. Despite having spent much of his career playing within the English system along with a stint in the United Soccer Leagues at Vancouver, Kinnear was able to pry Caig off the squad of SPL side Gretna after the player had previously returned home. The move was timely, as Caig saw considerable minutes between the sticks for Dynamo in league play as well as CONCACAF Champions Cup competition, making 12 appearances with Onstad out for a spell due to injury. While Caig chose not to stay through to the length of his contract , Dalglish has since planted deep roots with the club after his playing days concluded, now serving as a director with the Dynamo Juniors program.
No word on whether haggis is a part of the training diet for the wee Naranjas yet.
There have been other players scouted from the Scottish game by Houston recently though, who decided their careers were better served in potentially more lucrative and far flung locales. Earlier in 2011, forward Derek Riordan was out of contract with Hibernian FC and being heavily recruited to come to Dynamo. At the time, the 28 yr old player with a glittering record of goal tallies in the SPL--sound familiar?--made demands for wages Chris Canetti and the club would not meet, and instead followed the money to a Chinese Super League team. Four months later, having grown weary of General Tso's Chicken, Riordan had that contract terminated, and is now looking for a job back in the UK. Despite being advised the bid by Houston might have been his best offer with the security of a 2.5 year deal, he's now possibly fallen behind the list of other potential players looking for a club to land at before the January transfer window in Europe shuts, having last been seen training with Kilmarnock and Blackpool to revive a career he possibly Shanghaied himself.
Late last year, former Heart of Midlothian player Calum Elliot reportedly rejected a trial with Houston Dynamo in order to sign on with Lithuanian club VMFD Žalgiris, which somewhat boggles the mind considering the situation Elliot is leaving back in Edinburgh. Hearts have been in trouble of late for failing to pay their players' wages on time, and Elliot opted to have his contract terminated early in part as a cost-cutting move for the club but also for the chance to get a paycheck from somewhere else delivered on time. Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has been financing the club via loans through his Lithuanian bank Ūkio Bankas, which has of late encountered increasing difficulties with shifting about money in the rather fragile Lithuanian banking system. While Romanov and the bank have no discernible association with Elliot's new club, one wonders what promises have been made to him that made the ones provided by a financially stable organization like Houston less attractive over taking the gamble at trusting a new Lithuanian soccer enterprise to pay his salary on time. Considering VMFD Žalgiris is an offshoot of another club that went bankrupt in 2009, is being sued in the courts by that original club (in Lithuanian), and plans to hold raffles to encourage more fans to fill a stadium that seats 5,400 (again, in Lithuanian) Elliot might soon be regretting he turned down Kinnear and Houston Dynamo.
Now, with the leagues of both China and Lithuania ranked lower than MLS by IFFHS, the decisions by Riordan and Elliot to snub Houston cannot be said to have come down to an issue of a worse reputation for the US top division. Nor can it be said moves to the Far East and Eastern Europe presented either player with an easier transition in their daily lives when considering matters of language, cultural norms, and family situations as opposed to coming across the pond. Also, it would be difficult to assert the club would not have given them a platform to thrive as players, and fellow Scots Dalglish, Adam Moffat, and Scottish-born Stuart Holden could have let them know how swiftly fans of the Naranja embrace their tartan-clad players. In the main, interest by Houston was turned away in the pursuit of a larger pot of gold than Canetti & Co. has been able to offer, but should Boyd follow these two in also turning down Dynamo for a similar reason, he might want to think long and hard about that choice.
To begin, Boyd has just removed himself from the situation where a club promising to pay him his rather large wage demands were unable to deliver. He might be taking time to consider the deal from Houston in part to wait for additional interest from a club in the UK to be revealed. This has been met somewhat with Rangers boss Ally McCoist having to answer queries whether he has an eye on bringing Boyd back to Ibrox. Boyd should be hesitant about a return to Rangers, however, as the club could be in serious financial troubles themselves should their tax case go awry. Considering one of the more recent signings by the Glasgow club had to pay a portion of his own fee just to join, returning home to Rangers might be more shaky than taking a flyer on Houston. With Celtic already having rejected interest in the player and no other clubs seemingly interested in Boyd at the present, it would seem rather odd were he to decline Houston's solid offer in favor of returning to a club that previously rejected his increased salary demands and now are in a more precarious financial position than when he first left them for Middlesbrough in 2010.
The contract value with Dynamo might not be as silly, but at the present it looks considerably more legitimate than anything he was promised in Turkey and what might be paid in Scotland in the very near future.
Further, with how MLS sides have treated some of their more prominent players of late, Boyd signing with Dynamo might give him the opportunity to go on loan to a European club in the future should his career be revived. As the examples of David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and Thierry Henry have demonstrated, doors previously shut among the European top flight to veteran players were magically reopened following successful stints with an MLS club, and if Boyd's ultimate goal is to return to the UK after his Turkish sojourn, a two year detour in Houston might be his way back. This is purely hypothetical, but for him to be considered an attractive target in the next European winter transfer window, he would have to have been in good form for Houston during the 2012 campaign, which would suggest he was a potent scoring threat again. As it stands, there is little buzz around his name other than Dynamo's offer and McCoist's coy statement, so--just as was the case for Riordan last year--Houston's deal might be the best one out there for a Scottish striker seeking more impressive suitors only to find none.
Were Kris Boyd to truly weigh up his options and take a look at the cases of Riordan and Elliot, he would tell Dom Kinnear he's packing his bags for a flight to the states and be in camp as preseason training gets underway rather than continuing to wait by the phone for a better deal that might not come before the close of January. So come to Houston Kris Boyd: the food is quality, there is plenty to do in the nation's 4th largest city when you're not on the field, and there's a club there that loves their Scotsmen. And who knows? You might look fabulous in orange. Oh, and the best part about coming to Major League Soccer?
They pay you in bonafide cash. It might not be all you desired, but you've been down that path already and discovered the same thing as Dorothy did after getting to Oz--a snake oil salesman with only a hot air balloon.