Why Hibs and Martin Boyle can be too hot to handle against Santa Coloma in UEFA Conference League
Kicking off their season with a Conference League second round qualifier against underdogs Santa Coloma of Andorra at Easter Road tonight, Boyle understands the need for the capital club to live up to their favourites tag and not only progress to the next stage but, ultimately, go on to deliver a coefficient-enhancing run in the competition.
Hibs have set their sights on a place in the group stages, guaranteeing them European action into December, but Scottish sides, outwith Celtic and Rangers, tend to struggle when it comes to prolonging their involvement.
The fact that more of the team have sampled international football over the course of last season should help Hibs, with Alex Gogic, Paul Hanlon and Kevin Nisbet gaining their first caps and Paul McGinn and Ryan Porteous also involved in squads, while youngsters like Daniel Mackay and Josh Doig made their mark at age group level.
Over the course of last month, Boyle also added to his Socceroos cap haul with World Cup qualifiers.
That left him with very little downtime before reporting back for pre-season but he says it was worth it, not just to enjoy the matches but to learn from the experiences.
“International football is completely different – you play in different climates for a start so you have to adapt to different conditions which is much more difficult but enjoyable.
“Obviously you come across a far bigger range of players at a high level, some of whom are incredible and play in the Premier League and leagues beyond.
“So it’s great. I feel it makes me a better player at the same time. The last few years has been brilliant and if I’m doing well for my club I’m more likely to get picked for Australia.
“We did well over the summer to beat the four teams that we did and get into the next stage of qualification for the World Cup which is great.”
And, playing those matches in the sweltering heat of the Jaber al-Ahmad International Stadium, in Kuwait City, means he is ready for whatever heat Santa Coloma and, hopefully whoever comes along next, can muster.
“When I was in Kuwait it was about 50 degrees so hopefully Andorra will be no bother for me and the other boys won’t be suffering.
“At the same time the weather has been just as hot [as Andorra] here so I’m sure we’ll adapt well.
“If we can get the ball down and make them do the running about, they’ll be more tired than us.”
Fatigue is something he may have to be wary of later in the season, though, if Jack Ross’ men fulfil the ambition of competing on several fronts - in the Conference League as well as domestically - with international qualifiers further eating into the down time of their international players.
“It was only around a week to 10 days which wasn’t ideal,” said Boyle of the relaxation and recuperation he managed to squeeze in this summer.
“But, at the end of the day your reward might be qualifying for the World Cup. So, it is what it is. And, we’ve got massive games coming up here.”
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