Martin Boyle says he did not want to “play the club about” and was happy to wrap up a new deal rather than wait for interested suitors to come knocking.
Celtic were rumoured to be showing an interest in the Hibs winger during the January transfer window and with the 27-year-old into the final year of his existing deal, speculation was rife that he would move on.
But, keen to get things settled as soon as possible so that he can focus on his football, the pacy forward has extended his contract with the Easter Road club until 2023, saying it was one way of repaying them for their loyalty during spells out injured.
“I’ve had a few injuries and there were a few risks. I didn’t want to play the club about and I think it was just best for me to get a bit of security,” he said. “I’m enjoying it, I’m playing football regularly and I’ve got a young family who love it here.
“Hopefully this is, maybe not paying it back, but it is a bit of loyalty and a bit of faith that you sometimes don’t see in the game these days. I’m happy with my decision and I just want to put it all to the back of my mind and kick on again.”
The former Montrose and Dundee player joined Hibs in January 2015, initially on loan, but was offered a permanent deal that summer and has gone on to be an integral performer. Having worked with Alan Stubbs, he says it was the arrival of Neil Lennon that took his game to the next level and helped him earn international recognition.
“The big moment was probably Neil Lennon coming in and saying ‘has the penny dropped?’ I played a lot of games in the Championship and we got promoted and he gave me that chance and thankfully I took it and I haven’t looked back. I’ve progressed and got better every season and maybe little chances like that, little words in your ear can push you on the way.”
The latest managerial incumbent, Jack Ross, has made it clear he also values the winger, but jokes that his assistant John Potter had a greater sway in Boyle staying.
“He’s best pals with my assistant,” said Ross. “They’re like peas in a pod. They bounce off each other. What he brings to the club on a daily basis is brilliant because he’s infectious and you can’t underestimate the importance of that because there’s always a consistency about his mood. You would never know if he is worried about anything because he never, ever shows it.
“He’s been rewarded with a better contract and he’s very much deserving of it. People speak about his character and how lively he is but he’s also a genuinely good guy. He’s pretty grounded. His career path has been one of hard work.”
Excited by the start the club have made to the season, Boyle has set the personal target of more goals and assists but is also looking at what he hopes the squad can achieve as a whole, in the cup competitions and in league action.
“Probably the big factor [in deciding to stay at Hibs] is that I’m playing and enjoying it, the manager has put faith in me and I know the club, the fans, it’s brilliant,” said Boyle. “Happiness for me is key and the way I’m playing, there’s no need to see anything out, jump ship or go into the unknown.”
But while he is arguably enjoying his peak years and his team-mates are now teasing him about hanging around long enough for a testimonial, he says he hasn’t quite accepted his status as one of the squad’s senior pros. “I don’t act like it and the young boys don’t show me respect! When I finally mature then maybe people will take me seriously.”
The fact he has been given his new deal suggests those who matter already do.
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