'It's like going to the Fringe': Martin Boyle's Hibs impact laid bare with Croatian, Australian and Gambian joke

It would be wrong to call Lee Johnson’s Hibs, or indeed the those managed by Shaun Maloney and Jack Ross before him, a one-man team, but there can be no doubting Martin Boyle’s importance to the football club.

Martin Boyle has got a full week's training under his belt.
Martin Boyle has got a full week's training under his belt.

Under Ross, Boyle was one of three forwards who devastated defences in the Scottish Premiership and even in the short time Maloney worked with him, he was a vital player for him. Crucially, the wheels fell off at Hibs following his departure to Al-Faisaly for £3million in January. From then until the end of the 2021/22 campaign, they only won five of their 20 remaining matches. Maloney lost his job.

Hibs and Boyle have been reunited, though. His impact was instantaneous, coming off the bench to score a stoppage-time equaliser on Sunday against Hearts. Johnson has enjoyed working with the Australian internationalist this week, especially as he has brought more life to the dressing-room.

"He’s just bouncing around,” Johnson reported of Boyle at the club’s East Mains training centre. “He is just funny. isn’t he? He has these quick one liners. [Momodou] Bojang had sat on his table today but then saw Lewis Miller sat on his own, so Bojang went to sit with Lewis Miller and all I could hear was Boyler shouting: ‘That’s not good enough, you don’t want to sit with me then?’ That’s a very small incident, is those type of things, then all of a sudden it’s part of the conversation – then he is over there talking about a Croatian, an Australian and a Gambian sat at the same table then he is making jokes, ‘A Gambian, blah blah’, that sounds like an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman. It’s like going to the Fringe and seeing someone like him interact with the crowd, a comedian. I’m always shaking my head or laughing."

Boyle is one of those players who can galvanise a club. “From the moment I'd told the lads that I'd signed him, you could feel it,” Johnson said of the excitement surrounding his return. “We were training at Easter Road and everyone was buzzing – it's a lift. Obviously the new players don't know him, but they are interested to see the quality that he brings. They then lift their game. You can feel the fan buzz behind it. But it's a new regime him for him, he's got to learn a new philosophy. Although he is part of the furniture, he has to earn his stripes and I think he knows that as I pick the team based on merit.”

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Johnson is mulling over whether to unleash Boyle from the start against Livingston on Saturday. “Make no mistake, Boyle is a ready-made player, ready to go,” the manager added of the way he can enhance his team. “Yes, there will be a little bit of the understanding of the partnerships. But he knows the league, he knows the level, he knows the players he’s playing against.”

Experienced defender Paul Hanlon is also pushing for return. The defender missed the start of the season but played another 90 minutes in Hibs B’s SPFL Trust Trophy defeat by Brechin on Wednesday. “I think he’s close,” reported Johnson. “Hopefully, it won’t be too long before we see him getting minutes. He looks in better shape.”