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Finishing top of Scotland's scoring charts is our man Boyce's main goal

 

By Steven Beacom

Northern Ireland striker Liam Boyce is having the season of his life. The 26-year-old has scored 21 goals in all competitions for struggling Ross County and his efforts were rewarded in Scotland this week when he was named Ladbrokes' Player of the Month for April.

Only Celtic's Scott Sinclair has netted more, with Boyce ahead of £40m-rated Parkhead superstar Moussa Dembele in the Scottish Premiership scoring charts.

It is no surprise then that Boyce, who moved to Ross County from Cliftonville in 2014, has generated interest from bigger clubs with Hearts, Hibs and English teams in the Championship and League One keeping tabs on the Belfast man.

Boyce is laid back about the speculation, intent on not losing his focus and keen to add to his goal tally in County's remaining three fixtures, starting at Dundee today.

He could still finish as the top goal-getter in the league. Sinclair has 21 to Boyce's 20 with Dembele not expected to play again until next term due to injury, stuck on 17.

"I would say it is my most consistent season since coming to Scotland," said Boyce, who has played in midfield as well as attack this year.

"When I started playing in midfield I was top scorer and then Scott kept on scoring and overtook me. My fiancée's mum used to text me to say that he scored again and I had to try and catch up with him!

"Then he got so far ahead I stopped thinking about it and obviously I scored four goals in one game last month and I'm close to him again, so hopefully I can just keep the form going and get a few goals in the remaining games of the season and maybe catch up with him.

"Scoring more goals than Moussa Dembele in the league is something I'm very proud of. That is an achievement in itself. He is a quality player and very highly rated. Celtic are going to get more chances than we do in games so for me to score more than a player like him is brilliant."

Despite all the goals, Boyce admits it has been a 'disappointing' campaign for Ross County overall, finishing outside the top six in the Scottish Premiership. It will be fascinating to see if the striker will be with the Highlands outfit next season.

On the future, he said: "When people are talking about you, that can only be good. If you aren't being talked about then generally that means you aren't having a good season. I just want to focus on my form and keep scoring goals.

"I'm aware that I've been linked with other clubs but I don't let those things concern me. That sort of stuff is down to Ross County and my agent (Stephen Whelan). If you get caught up in speculation, it can go to your head and you think you are better than you are and you try to show off to get attention when all you have to do is do what you are doing. All I want to do is continue scoring goals."

Boyce, who lives in Inverness with partner Leoncha and adorable little daughter Scout, added: "I have another year on my contract with Ross County but if anything happens I leave it to Stevie and the gaffer (Jim McIntyre).

"Obviously as a footballer you want to go as far as you can. Even though I'm happy here and my family are happy here, you want to test yourself. Other than that, I'm here next year as far as I'm concerned."

You can tell Boyce, a two-time title winner with Cliftonville, is in a good place personally and professionally and relishing taking on the likes of Rangers and Celtic, who he enjoyed scoring a late penalty against in a 2-2 draw in April.

"Back home in the Irish League there were tactics of course but because our Cliftonville team was so good you used to go out and have fun and think you were just playing with your mates," said the forward, who is hoping to see some game time when Northern Ireland visit Azerbaijan for a crucial World Cup qualifier on June 10.

"Over here it is a lot more serious with a lot more tactics. It's people's livelihoods and when you go up against Celtic and Rangers it is a different level. The pressure is on when you play those teams and you have to be at your very best, especially against Celtic with the way they have dominated.

"Luckily the last time we played Celtic I got a penalty and scored. We were 2-1 down and it was very late. I just concentrated on hitting it well. I think that was my first goal against Celtic. My family are all Celtic fans so it was a big moment. You want to score against the best and it was great to do it.

"I love playing at all the grounds, especially at Celtic and Rangers. At Parkhead when they are doing the huddle the noise is incredible. It's like white noise and at Ibrox the atmosphere is amazing too."

Boyce was the talk of Scotland when he struck FOUR goals in an hour in a 4-0 victory over Inverness Caley Thistle last month, but his heroics were tinged with sadness due to the death of his uncle Thomas earlier that week. After scoring Boyce made the sign of a T to honour his uncle and dedicated his goals to Thomas.

"Up until I started playing football at 15, we would go to his house every weekend. I was close to my uncle and my dad and my uncle were really close so it hurt," said Boyce.

"I knew my family were watching back home and going through a tough time so it was good to honour Thomas with the goals and make my family happy, even if it was just for a few seconds."

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