LIAM BOYCE made history at Ross County.
Now Jim McIntyre has backed the prolific front-man to rip up the record books at Hearts.
McIntyre was the Staggies manager when they lifted the League Cup in 2016 by defeating Hibernian 2-1, racking up the club’s first EVER major trophy.
It was the pinnacle of a laudable three years in the Highlands for Boyce, who rippled the net a total of 55 times during his stint at County.
So it came as no surprise to McIntyre to see Boyce hit the ground running with the winning goal in Sunday’s 2-1 triumph over Rangers.
Moreover, he firmly believes Boyce is the man to end Hearts’ striker hoodoo, which has seen no marksman manage to register 20 goals in a season since the legendary John Robertson in 1991/92.
“He was the top scorer in Scotland for us at Ross County, scoring 23 in one campaign,” recalled McIntyre. “For a provincial club like Ross County, that was outstanding from Liam.
“I would fully expect, over the course of a full season, for him to be around that mark again because he gets into dangerous areas and scores all types of different goals.
“More than that, he’s a terrific all-round talent. For a big guy, he has incredibly soft feet. His first touch is a dream and he has wonderful awareness to bring others into the game. He’s good in the air and holds the ball up.
“The only thing Liam doesn’t have is a blistering turn of pace and, if he had that, he’d be playing for an absolutely massive club.”
Boyce confessed that he ‘was on one leg’ by the end of a breathless debut at Tynecastle but fought through a dead leg to complete the full 90 minutes. It is a side of Boyce’s character McIntyre remembers and he believes that is a measure of the man.
“You could visibly see he was struggling in the second half, but he knew there were other people who maybe needed to come off, he added. “He fought through it.
“Liam just loves football – he’s a student of the game, wants to get better, wants to learn and will never give you less than 100 per cent.”
Although delighted to see his ex-charge back in Scotland, McIntyre admits he was stunned when Hearts managed to secure the signing of Boyce from Burton Albion – revealing that his pal Phil Parkinson previously offered £1 MILLION in an attempt to tempt him to Bolton.
However, he acknowledged that the swoop was a long time coming after the Jambos previously failed to pinch him from Ross County.
“I was surprised Hearts got him,” he acknowledged. “I know the now-Sunderland manager Phil Parkinson very well and he tried to take him to Bolton for more than £1m a while back.
“That tells you how highly Liam is thought of down south.
“So fair play to Hearts. They’ve pushed the boat out and it’s an incredible bit of business.
“I can remember how hard they tried to sign Liam when I had him at County – so they finally got their man!”
With Boyce’s burgeoning partnership with club captain Steven Naismith immediately blossoming against the Gers, McIntyre has little doubt the capital club now have the firepower to move away from the drop-zone.
“You could see an immediate link-up with Steven Naismith. Clever players like to play with other clever players – they will bring so much quality to Hearts,” lauded McIntyre.
“I do think they have enough to get out of trouble now. With guys like Liam, Naismith and [John] Souttar back, these are excellent footballers, and you can see the high-pressing style Daniel Stendel wants to implement. They’ll get after teams and gain points.
“But the key thing about being in a relegation battle is taking your chances – and, in Liam, Hearts have got the man for that now.”