Liam Boyce finally has a trophy to mark leading goal tally
Northern Ireland star Liam Boyce finally has a tangible reminder of finishing last season as the leading goalscorer in the Scottish Premiership… and he has his agent to thank.
Boyce netted an impressive 23 times for Ross County in the 2016/2017 league campaign - more than Celtic heroes Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele, who played in a side that waltzed to the title and were unbeaten from start to finish.
It was a staggering achievement from Boyce, especially since Ross County were fighting relegation, yet unlike in other leagues across Europe there was no trophy to recognise the goals that beat the Invincible Bhoys and kept the Highland outfit in the top flight.
They also earned the former Cliftonville star a £500,000 summer move to English Championship side Burton Albion. Unfortunately for Boyce he suffered a serious knee injury in a pre-season fixture ruling him out until next year.
The good news is the 26-year-old's recovery is going well, and being handed a special memento by agent Stephen Whelan to mark his goalscoring exploits is another boost as the Belfast man works hard to return to fitness in order to play again for club and country.
The trophy is a high gloss golden football boot set on a plinth with two inscriptions. One reads: 'Liam Boyce, Ross County, 23 goals'. The second says: 'Scottish Premier League Golden Boot winner 2016/2017'.
Explaining why he wanted Boyce's efforts to be rewarded with a trophy, Whelan said: "You could argue that the dynamic of the leading goalscorer in Scotland last season was a little bit different because Liam hit more goals for Ross County than Celtic's Scott Sinclair and Moussa Dembele, who were playing in a team that went unbeaten throughout the entire league campaign.
"Plus I would suggest that his 23 league goals played a substantial part in Liam getting his move to Burton Albion in the English Championship.
"I thought it would have been natural that Liam would have received an award for his goalscoring efforts last season.
"When I asked Liam about an award he said that he didn't think there was one so I took it upon myself to find out.
"I rang the guys in the SPFL and to be fair they were very nice and said they would look into it. I got a call a week later to say that they don't give an award for top league scorer over the season, so that's when I thought that I didn't want Liam's achievement to go unrecognised and decided to look into something tangible to reflect what he did.
"A long term friend of mine, Liam Burns, runs Sports Trophies NI in Bangor. I gave him an idea of what I was looking for and he had ideas of his own. He picked out a high gloss football boot which is like the trophies handed out to top goalscorers across other European leagues. He got a special plinth made and the design is fantastic.
"I was going over to a Burton Albion game last weekend and met up with Liam. When I handed over the boot I said to him that I thought he really deserved something for what he achieved last season and when he saw it he was blown away."
Boyce said: "It was unbelievable. I really appreciated the gesture from Stephen. I had a great season with Ross County and it is really nice to have a memento to mark it. The boot is fantastic."
The Northern Ireland star, who scored his first international goal in June, recently moved into a new house in Derby, 20 minutes from Burton's ground, along with his partner Leoncha and their daughter Scout.
He is working hard to recover from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and appreciates all the assistance he is receiving at Burton.
"The club have been great with me. I know it's a long process but we are getting there. I want to come back stronger and be playing again for Burton and Northern Ireland next year," said Boyce, who attended his side's League Cup defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford in midweek.