Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke has praised the longevity of Kris Boyd after the evergreen striker scored a hat-trick at the weekend.
The former Scotland international, now 34, came off the bench against Dumbarton to devastating effect, notching three goals in just 26 minutes to win the game.
It was the veteran’s first appearance of the season due to a niggle sustained in training but he picked up from where he left off last term, when he finished as the top scorer in the Ladbrokes Premiership.
His importance to Killie and Clarke is clear and, despite his 35th birthday being just weeks away, the boss has backed him to keep going and played down talk they could be overreliant on the former Rangers man.
“That (how long he plays for) is down to Kris and how much he wants to keep going,” Clarke said. “At the moment, since I came to the club, he has shown a great hunger and great desire to be involved every week.
“He very rarely misses a training session so it will really come down to how long he wants to keep pushing himself to be out there and performing every week.
“Every team throughout football, in any league or any division in the world, there are always three or four key players in any team.
“Kris is certainly one of the key three or four players in our team.”
New signing Mikael Ndjoli got his first goal for the club in Saturday’s 4-2 win in the Betfred Cup, but Killie have looked relatively toothless in front of goal without Boyd on the park having also drawn 0-0 with St Mirren, but Clarke is sure he has enough firepower in his squad.
He said: “I think I have got enough in the squad that if Kris is not playing we can still get results.”
There was a worrying moment during the win when Greg Taylor and Stuart Findlay were forced off the pitch early in the first half following a sickening clash of heads, which saw both players suffer nasty cuts.
Clarke played down the incident after the match but admits they are both unlikely to feature on Tuesday against Spartans.
“On Sunday there were no real signs of concussion,” he said. “Both boys are still very sore and we will have another look at them before the game and then it will come down to whether it is worth the risk.
“Both have substantial cuts to their head.”