How do Hibs replace Martin Boyle? Because they need to

Looking at bare statistics, Martin Boyle scored 65 goals in 265 appearances over the course of his seven years at Hibs.

Martin Boyle has been a talisman for Hibs.
Martin Boyle has been a talisman for Hibs.

Considering that return, it would be fair to assume that finding someone else who can come in and score around 10 goals a season from a forward position might not be impossible, especially now that Hibs have taken in £3million from his sale and don’t need to rifle through the bargain bins

But such a limited field of view does not get close to illustrating Martin Boyle’s real worth to Hibs in recent years or explain just how difficult he will be to replace, especially in a January transfer window which is notoriously difficult to negotiate – where available players have usually been sidelined and are not ready to hit the ground running and the quality targets tend to be under contract, with owners unwilling to part unless sizable sums are spent.

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The fact is, replacing like for like will be an almost impossibly big ask.

Boyle has impressed for Australia.

Because Boyle was far more than those 65 goals. He was an on-field leader, who could take games and turn them on their head in the blink of an eye. A man with startling pace and a gallus willingness to run at defences, who, on his day, was unplayable, as Rangers discovered in this season’s League Cup semi-final.

He scored three that day. But on other occasions he drew a blank. In those matches it was what he did for the team that counted.

A man who could inject fear into opposition defences, who could push them to the byeline and whip in a cross or cut inside and nip through gaps, or play one-twos, his pace also meant that in a straight sprint, few could match him let alone contain him.

But, it was only in the last season-and-a-half that he emerged as a reliable and rampant goalscorer, though. A player who could cut through defences, he finally added incisive finishing to his repertoire. Before the arrival of Jack Ross as manager, the assists – as valuable as they were – had always outnumbered his goals.

One of Boyle's finest moments for Hibs was his hat-trick in the recent 3-1 win over Rangers.

When Hibs returned from the Championship exile in 2017/18, he reintroduced himself to the top flight with 13 assists and Hibs pushed up the table.

Last term, he was mercurial, and while he still weighed in with a dozen assists, for the first time since his first full campaign at Hibs back in 2015/16, he finished with more goals than assists, netting 15. As part of a deadly frontline, he was a massive factor in Hibs highest league finish in 16 years as they booked a return to Europe and also got to one final and another semi final in the cups.

That ability to drive the team forward, taking the pressure off the defence and gaining territory with a quick counterattack or a injection of pace to help bust through a stodgy rearguard, offered those around him an on-field calmness born of the belief that he is always capable of producing a killer moment, be that an inviting cross or a breakaway goal. And, that is something that will be hard to replace,

The upcoming days will be vital for Hibs. With a new manager and an initial upturn in fortunes, they have high hopes of moving up the league standings. They received kudos for the early signings made in the transfer window and there was renewed positivity but that might not last if they can’t find a way to cover the loss of Boyle. Or enough of his key attributes.

Hibs manager Shaun Maloney may bring in more signings.

A player with a bit of mischief and an almost Peter Pan love of the game, finding an identikit version will be a daunting and not necessarily fruitful search.

Of course they can find players who can offer different elements, but few come ready made to get a stadium buzzing with excitement and expectation as they switch on the afterburners and home in on goal.

Then you add in the pace, the direct running, the assists and the goals. He provided five and 14 of them respectively this season before jumping on the plane to Saudi Arabia.

And, scant statistics cannot quantify his mental and psychological contribution to a dressing room that has had it’s downs as well as ups during his team in Edinburgh. His effervescence helped to lift spirits and bolster the team’s bouncebackability, and his positive personality resonated with fans who felt inclined to respond in kind.

Without him, against Cove Rangers on Thursday night, the performance and the atmosphere was flat.

While the team carved out openings as he watched from the stand, they did not do it with the kind of pace and verve that led to the away keeper Kyle Gourlay being peppered with shots.

One-paced, they lacked his cockiness and his nuisance value.

Manager Shan Maloney admitted they need to recruit wisely and quickly.

“People with Martin’s attributes make a difference,” he said. “It’s hard to find and that’s why he’s been one of the best in his position.

“But we can’t not replace that. At times we saw we have some good play but when you have a player who can go by an opponent it changes really long possession into a good chance.”

A popular figure, in a social media post the Australian international said: “It’s not goodbye, it’s see you later.” And, many will hope they will see him in the green and whale again.

Few if any begrudge him his major payday, but they will be slightly worried about how they manage to fill the void in the meantime.

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