Mr Versatile reflects on his year of injury
He is regarded very much the joker in the pack, full of mischief and always up for a laugh. But after a year in which he had little to smile about, Martin Boyle is again looking on the brighter side of life.
It’s fair to say things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Hibs player than they did in 2019, his world crashing down about him as a serious knee injury sustained while on international duty with Australia ruled him out of their defence of the Asian Cup and brought his season to a premature end.
Surgery was required but only three games into his comeback he broke down again, a further operation needed, putting him out of action for another three months.
But now, as he trains on the Costa del Sol, the 26-year-old is looking forward to the coming months, not only with Hibs but on the international front with qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar well underway, followed by this summer’s Copa America which is being jointly hosted by Argentina and Colombia.
Given the potential rewards which lie ahead, there’s little wonder the grin is back on his face although he’s the first to admit the hard work which has seen him evolve from someone who was regarded as purely a “flying machine” to a more rounded player, a versatile individual who is proving his worth both at home and abroad.
“It’s been tough,” was his assessment of the first three days in Spain where he and his team-mates are undergoing twice-daily training sessions.
“As good as the break was it’s good to be back, time we can really reflect on what we have done in the first part of the season, talk about it and see what we can achieve in the second part of the season.
“It’s good to get away, it’s warm weather but it’s hard work as well. We are not here for a jolly, we are here for hard work and that started when we arrived.”
And although he regards himself as being fully up to speed in terms of his fitness, the former Montrose and Dundee player insisted there’s still plenty for him to work on.
He said: “As a player you can always go that extra mile and develop but I feel I am back to full fitness. But you can always get better and that’s what I am hoping to do, to get faster, stronger.
“I am still doing my daily rehabs for my knee and other bits and bobs on my body. But the other players are doing the exact same. They are keeping themselves ticking over. It’s about how much you want to progress yourself at the end of the day.
“I have always been one who is up for a laugh but at the same time when I cross that white line it comes down to hard work and how much you really want it.
“As the seasons have been going on I’ve been adapting into different positions. A few seasons ago I was a wing-back and it was predominantly just up and down the pitch.
“But now I have been playing some sort of midfield role where you have to get on the ball and I’ve been showing I can play a bit as well in terms of playing up front as well, holding the ball, spinning in behind.
“The manager knows if I am on that team sheet I am willing to play anywhere and being a versatile player it can help in so many ways as well.”
Those months spent on the treatment table and undergoing gruelling sessions in the gym undoubtedly gave Boyle plenty of time to ponder his bad luck but he’s never been one spend too much time looking at the down side of things.
“Obviously that was a hard one to take,” he said of the initial injury and the timing of it.”
But at the same time these things can happen. You don’t know what’s round the corner but at the same time I do not really worry about my injury.
“I got back playing and I was confident straight away. You don’t want to think about it because if you do it’s always at the back of your mind and so you could be holding back, you don’t want to be holding back anything going into games.
“I had a lot of support with the likes of Darren McGregor and David Gray who were both injured, and also went through it with Ryan Porteous. As much as he was trying to keep my spirits up I was keeping his spirits up as well.
“It was a bit of crazy bunch but the rehab system was good. Ryan came back after having the same op but obviously I broke down again. However, you can’t really dwell on it. It’s all about the impact when you come back and I scored in my first game (a last-minute equaliser against Livingston) after Hibs had been 2-0 down at half-time) so that kind of set me on my way.”
Support not only came from within Hibs’ East Mains training centre but from the Australia camp, Boyle revealing: “They were in touch weekly, physios were flying over to see me as well, and they were also contacting the club to see where I was at so they have been brilliant.
“They are there to help as well if I need anything but, in terms of being injured, I have had the full support of the physio team here, they have been fantastic in getting me back and out playing.”