Pressure on Alex McLeish as Aussies check out Martin Boyle

Martin Boyle has been in impressive form for Hibs. Picture: SNS
Martin Boyle has been in impressive form for Hibs. Picture: SNS
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Scotland manager Alex McLeish may have to fend off another advance from Australia, after his Socceroos counterpart Graham Arnold spent some time in the capital this week and left with another option to mull over.

The Scotland boss killed off any chance of Hearts defender John Souttar tapping into his antipodean bloodline, capping him in the recent double header against Belgium and Albania and he may have to move swiftly if he is serious about Hibernian’s Martin Boyle being part of his plans.

The Easter Road attacker was sounded out for the summer trip to Peru and Mexico but an injury prevented him answering the call. He was not involved when the Nations League action got under way earlier this month and, with an Australian-born dad, he is eligible to join club-mates Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren at international level.

“I think an Australia call-up would be thoroughly merited for Martin,” said Hibs manager Neil Lennon of the former Scotland U-16 player. “We had Graham here last week checking up on Milly [Milligan] and Jamie [Maclaren] and then he came to the game against Kilmarnock. Unfortunately, Martin only lasted 45 minutes but Graham saw plenty of footage of him while he was here. He may be a player of interest to Australia and I think that would appeal to Martin.

“We did get a call in [from Scotland] before the trip to South America but Martin had hurt his hamstring in the penultimate game of the season and was unavailable.” Declaring himself “happy-ish” with the start to the season, the Leith boss insists that it is still a work in progress as they regroup following the departure of key players in the summer and he tries to settle on his best tactics and line-up. But, while he weighs up what the newcomers can bring to the side, he is already well aware of what Boyle offers.

“There is still room for improvement in his game but he has been tremendous for me over the two years I have been here,” said Lennon.

“You see improvement in him all the time. Physically, he is stronger, he has electric pace and has been a huge player for me. He wants to get at people, get beyond and his movement and fitness levels are very, very good.

“I had a chat with Graham on Friday but nothing [about Boyle’s inclusion] was confirmed. We would be delighted for Martin if he does [get a call-up].

This afternoon Hibs will travel to Dens Park, hoping to add to Dundee’s misery and build momentum of their own. “The character shown against a very good Kilmarnock team last week was very good and I’m looking for more of the same this weekend,” said Lennon. “We will need that because Dundee will feel they are in a false position and will want to get up and running.

“It is a dangerous game. We will have to be at our best. But I would like to think we wouldn’t have a problem with self motivation because [the defeat by] Livingston was a sore one for us all and that is still fresh in the minds. I think we can use that as motivation.”

Lennon is buoyed by the return of defenders Darren McGregor and Paul Hanlon and the emphasis is on tightening up at the back, according to David Gray, who is also back from injuries and making a name for himself in the scoring charts.

“I went about 12 seasons without scoring but I’m enjoying getting into these positions and thankfully they’re going in,” said Gray. “We worked on the set-piece from the weekend and when it comes off it’s brilliant. It helps when you’ve got somebody like Stevie [Mallan]. If you can get away from your man you’ve got a right good chance of getting on the ball because his deliveries are always really good. I’ve done it a couple of times but I’d swap one at the weekend for a clean sheet. I think we need to try and tighten up on that front.

“I’m on four just now so double-figures would be good but I’d rather get ten clean sheets.”