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Who will top the scoring charts in the SPL?

Rangers striker Kenny Miller and Hibs forward Derek Riordan
Kenny Miller and Derek Riordan will be among the goals in the new season

By Thomas McGuigan

Wanted: a new hired gun to be crowned the leading goalscorer in the Scottish Premier League.

Since sharp-shooters Kris Boyd and Scott McDonald left to join Middlesbrough, a goal-scoring vacuum is waiting to be filled.

Boyd, as the statistics show, was a goal machine during his time at Rangers as he terrorised opposition defences.

He topped the goal-scoring charts in four of the five seasons he was at Ibrox, with former Celtic striker McDonald taking his crown in the 2007/08 season.

Boyd scored 32 goals when he moved to Rangers in January 2006: 15 for Kilmarnock and 17 for his new employers.

The following season, he was the leading goalscorer with 20 goals; he fired 27 in 2008/09 and 23 in his final campaign with the club.

With Boyd and McDonald now sporting Middlesbrough colours, it's the chance for another striker to prove he's the best in the business.

Kris Boyd (left) and Scott McDonald were both razor sharp in front of goal
Kris Boyd and Scott McDonald are no longer terrorising SPL defences

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin, now a BBC Scotland pundit, believes a number of candidates are in the running.

Nevin, who counts Motherwell, Kilmarnock, Chelsea and Everton among his former clubs, won't be surprised if the leading marksman plays for the Old Firm.

"However, looking at Celtic and Rangers' squad, who is likely to score 25-30 goals this season?" he said.

"It's not that glaringly obvious which one will be able to step up to the plate.

"I'm really impressed by Kenny Miller's work-rate; it's got better and better and his touch has also improved.

"Although he's not an absolute natural finisher, he gets into very good positions and subsequently gets a higher percentage of opportunities. There's a chance he could get right up there."

Nevin is a long-time admirer of Rangers target Nikica Jelavic.

"I rate Jelavic very highly indeed; I'd seen him before he faced Celtic and he's got so much power. He's a more rounded player than a lot of strikers," he said of the Rapid Vienna striker.

"If you have a front two of Miller and Jelavic then I think one of those two will get your 25/30 goals."

Old Firm rivals Celtic have struggled to replace the predatory McDonald.

BBC Scotland pundit Pat Nevin
Nobody creates chances for Riordan, he creates them for himself and is the best finisher in the league

Pat Nevin

Gary Hooper and Daryl Murphy have been recruited by manager Neil Lennon as he seeks greater firepower.

But Nevin believes another player at Celtic Park has the makings of a lethal marksman.

"Morten Rasmussen: he's a scorer. If you talk about Kenny Miller not being a natural goalscorer, Rasmussen is.

"He just lives in that wee McCoist/Boyd area: he stays between the posts and, if you create enough chances, he's the kind of guy who will get you goals.

"But I'm just not convinced he'll get enough games for Celtic this season to be able to do that.

"I would need to see a bit more of Gary Hooper, but he could certainly be a candidate too."

Nevin, a season ticket holder at Hibernian, has been impressed by Anthony Stokes and Derek Riordan, believing they are the two best finishers in Scotland's top flight.

"Stokesy has come into some seasons looking a bit overweight and, as a striker, you can't do that," said Nevin.

"When Hibs are creating chances, he is a fantastic finisher. But I want to see what he looks like when he runs on to the park for the first league game of the season against Motherwell.

"Nobody creates chances for Riordan, he creates them for himself and is fabulous as far as I'm concerned.

"He's the best finisher in the league. Obviously, being a season ticket holder at Hibs, I see a lot of him.

"Riordan is extra special as a finisher and is a good distance ahead of anyone else.

"But the biggest problem is that he's played out wide. I'd love to see Stokes and Riordan playing as the two centre forwards because their understanding together is fabulous."

Nevin also expects great things from Hearts striker Kevin Kyle, if he can steer clear of injury this season and shows the right attitude.

"Not last season but the one before, he was unplayable. He was that good," said Nevin.

"Beyond David Goodwillie, Jon Daly, Jamie Murphy and John Sutton, I don't see any other candidates for top scorer."

Nevin offers a clue as to what's required from a top striker looking to race up the scoring charts.

"If you've got Kenny Miller and Derek Riordan one-on-one with the goalkeeper, who would you put your money on?

"It would be Riordan because strikers like him tend to slow down in that situation.

"They don't rush it and they don't lash it. Players like me have to think about it, good strikers don't; it just happens."

The stage is set for a new hired gun to make his mark in Scotland's top flight.



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see also
SPL ready for new season kick-off
13 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
Club-by-club the best SPL goals
10 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
Chick Young's view
11 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
Basement battle
12 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
SPL ins and outs
31 Aug 10 |  Scottish Premier
Boyd completes Middlesbrough move
05 Jul 10 |  Middlesbrough


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