Martin Boyle grew up in Aberdeen, trained with the club and his girlfriend is captain of their ladies team – but tonight he will be doing his utmost to ensure that Hibernian deliver the Dons their first domestic defeat.
Boyle penned a permanent deal with Hibs in the summer after spending the second half of last season on loan from Dundee but will induce divided loyalties this evening as he faces his hometown team in the League Cup at Easter Road.
The 22-year-old’s better half is Rachael Small, a midfielder and skipper with Aberdeen Ladies, and the eagerly-awaited encounter brings back happy memories for Boyle of the spell he spent as a teenager training at Pittodrie full-time whilst playing part-time for Montrose.
He explained: “Its a great tie to get and one we were excited about after the draw. Obviously Aberdeen are flying at the moment and it will be a good tie for us.
“I was raised in Aberdeen. When I was at Montrose I’d go in and train with them every day when I was also at college part-time. I’d train with the lads at Pittodrie.
“Craig Brown was the manager at the time and my manager at Montrose initially arranged it. Craig was happy to have me in training full-time.
“I learned a lot from that and it got me used to full-time football.
“I was only young, maybe 16 or so. It was great experience for me. I was a bit overawed at first, watching a few of the games, and it’s a massive club.
“They wanted me to play in a few games but I knew myself not to get my hopes up.
“None of my family are Aberdeen fans but my girlfriend, Rachael Small, is captain of the Aberdeen Ladies team. She plays in midfield and they’re doing well.
“They’re affiliated with Aberdeen and I get along to watch when I can, so there are divided loyalties this week!
“She tries to get along to my games when she can, too. She’s given me a bit of stick in the build-up to this game but I’ve just brushed it off.
“She’ll support me and Aberdeen. She’ll be at the game and she’ll be in our end while her friends will be in the away section.”
Meanwhile, captain David Gray believes Hibs could hold their own in the Premiership – and admits this evening is the perfect opportunity to prove that theory.
At the quarter-final stage last season, the Easter Road outfit were defeated by team-of-the-moment Dundee United, however it required a missed penalty from Gray to separate the sides following a hugely entertaining and see-saw 3-3 draw.
That experience will not put off the full-back should spot-kicks be required again tonight, but the former Manchester United trainee is optimistic that the Championship side can go one step further and pull off a major upset against the Premiership leaders.
He said: “I honestly believe the squad we have got would compete well in the Premiership given the type of football we play.
“But we are where we are and we’re in the Championship at the minute, so we can’t look too far in front of that.
“Our aim last season was to get promoted so we could play teams like Aberdeen regularly.
“So this will be a good indication to see where we are. These are the sort of games we want to get back to playing in all the time.
“There is no tougher test than Aberdeen right now. So it is a game where we can judge ourselves and hopefully get the right result.”