Going in search of international recognition, it was big games Martin Boyle was looking for.
Ironically, though, being named in Australia’s squad for the upcoming Asian Cup will cost the Hibernian attacker his chance to feature in one of the biggest of the domestic season. Along with fellow Socceroos Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren, he will miss the festive derby against Hearts as the trio prepare for the international tournament.
“It’s obviously disappointing, it’s a massive game. It’s a derby at New Year and nobody wants to miss that. But, at the end of the day, it’s a sacrifice that has to be made,” he said.
“The clubs and the country have been talking to each other and the decision has been made, but we have players here who can step up and I’m sure they will.
“We’re disappointed to be missing such a big game. But at the same time we’re going away to play in a major tournament for our country.”
That side of things delights him, having grabbed his chance to impress Aussie manager Graham Arnold during the most recent training camp, setting up goals and scoring them. It was enough to ensure his inclusion for Australia’s equivalent to our Euro championships.
If the defending champions are again to have a major say in the competition’s outcome, Boyle and Co could play in seven games, keeping them away from SPFL duty well beyond the winter break. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world,” said the “ecstatic” former Dundee man, whose family will all travel to United Arab Emirates to cheer him on. “From where I’ve come from to the rise just now has been astonishing.”
But after suffering concussion in the recent league game against Hamilton he wants to get a couple of matches and solid performances under his belt before jetting out, in the hope he will force his way into his international manager’s mind and ensure he will not be easily forgotten by his club boss.
“I need to get a bit of a run going in the next two games before I go away. It was a sore one! That was me trying to get out the way, funnily enough, just ducking, but goalkeepers are taught to come out with their knees and he [Hamilton keeper Gary Woods] actually texted me on the Monday night to see how I was. He ended up having to come off with his knee so it was a bad one for him as well.
“It could have been a lot worse but unfortunately I missed the Celtic game because of the concussion rules. I missed one game and then only played 20 minutes against Rangers so I know there have been boys who have been champing at the bit to play all year. I just have to keep my head down, work hard and hopefully get my shirt back [when he returns from international games].”
His role this afternoon, against Livingston, could be crucial, as a Hibernian side minus injured Stevie Mallan try to get the better of Gary Holt’s men. In the previous head-to-head, in West Lothian, that proved beyond Hibs.
“In hindsight Livingston is a very difficult place to go this season and that has been proven as they have only lost one game at home all season,” said Hibs manager Neil Lennon. “We took the lead against them and were controlling the game and then we let our defensive standards drop and they scored two very good individual goals.
“They’ve proved very capable at this level and there is good continuity and physicality there. There’s a good structure and they have great mentality and good togetherness.”
But the Easter Road boss is hoping the psychological boost of taking four points from six against Celtic and Rangers in the last two outings, allied to home advantage, will give his team the edge.
“We are a little bit depleted at the moment. But we have set a good bar in recent games and we want to keep that going.”