Martin Boyle has few qualms about upsetting a few old friends at Ross County while continuing to stake a claim for a regular starting slot at Hibs.
The forward is desperate to convince Jack Ross he’s ready to last 90 minutes. And he may have to do this from the bench in the Highlands this evening against several Easter Road old boys, including Brian Graham, Liam Fontaine and Keith Watson.
Boyle has no plans to go easy. After establishing himself as a regular starter under Neil Lennon, he knows he needs to prove himself all over again.
He’s still waiting for his first start under the head coach after coming off the bench in the last three games. Indeed, he’s done so in each of Hibs’ last six outings.
Even when he travelled all the way to Jordan for a World Cup qualifier with Australia last month, it was to perform a familiar function: second-half cameo.
Such caution is to be expected following his injury woes. He made his return in July after a long spell out last season but suffered further damage to the same knee during a Betfred Cup clash with Elgin City. Paul Heckingbottom, Ross’s predecessor, barely got the chance to decide how to use Boyle.
And another change of manager has complicated the process of breaking back into the team. “I hadn’t started a game before he came in so maybe he [Ross] sees it that way and feels I’m not ready to start games yet and that I’m better coming off the bench to make an impact,” Boyle reflected.
“We’ve had a conversation about how I’m feeling [fitness-wise], and I’m getting fitter and stronger with every minute I get on the pitch. If I’m needed, I’ll give my all.
“I’m sure he’s said he’ll give everyone a chance but he’s also told me the team is doing well. I totally understand that. There’s nothing much I can do except help the team out and be ready when I’m called upon.”
Ross County have their own needs to worry about this evening. As much as it is an opportunity for old team-mates to catch up, both sides desperately require three points for different reasons. The hosts need to return to winning form after a run of nine games without a victory. Hibs, meanwhile, don’t want to be dragged down towards the bottom six again.
“There are a few familiar faces up there but we’re not going up there to be friendly, we’ll need to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in,” said Boyle.
“We want to keep up the recent momentum. There’s a bit of a gap opened up so we need to climb as much as we can. Hopefully we can get another three points and that will take us into hopefully a sell-out crowd against Aberdeen on Saturday.”
Although he only played the last 20 minutes of the 1-0 win against Jordan it was significant in that it meant Boyle is now a fully fledged Socceroo. His previous appearances had all been in friendlies.
“That locked me in to playing for Australia but that was always going to be the case,” he said. “In my mind I was locked in already.
“I feel very much part of it now. They’re always keeping in touch and all the faces there are very familiar.
“It’s been brilliant since I’ve been in. Being injured for such a long period of time, the physios are coming over and having a chat with me and the manager’s always on the phone, which is good to hear.”