EOIN Doyle is loving his football at the moment. As he approaches the end of an eventful first year in Scotland, the Hibs striker has overcome early teething troubles to establish himself as one half of the most potent strike pairing in the SPL.
The only fly in the ointment for the Irishman is the nagging concern that his fruitful alliance with Scottish football’s man of the moment, Leigh Griffiths, may be drawing to a close. The front two have accounted for 18 of Hibs’ 26 goals. To put that into perspective, Griffiths and Doyle have scored more goals between them than six SPL sides. While Doyle’s eye-catching five-goal haul has put him seventh in the SPL scoring charts, it is Griffiths, with 13 to his name, who has emerged as arguably Scotland’s player of the season so far. Unfortunately for Hibs, the former Livingston forward’s scintillating form carries an obvious drawback in the sense that it makes it harder for them to retain his services beyond the end of next month, when his loan from Wolves expires.
The Championship side have no desire to hang on to Griffiths but, given his status as the SPL’s top scorer and the fact he earned his first Scotland cap earlier this month, other clubs with more financial clout than Hibs will surely have been alerted to his talents. While Griffiths would love to remain at Hibs, Wolves, notorious for driving a hard bargain, feel his form in Edinburgh could aid their hopes of recouping the £150,000 they paid Dundee for him almost two years ago. Hibs’ chances of keeping him, then, effectively hinge on the calibre of any other suitors who may emerge over the next month or so.
Doyle, like every other Hibs fan, is hoping the vultures remain at bay and that his goalscoring partner is able to continue wreaking havoc in a green and white jersey into 2013. “If he goes in January, he’d be a big loss for us,” said Doyle. “We all really hope he’ll stay, so hopefully the club will be able to sort it out. He’s a really special player for us and has the ability to pull a goal out of nothing. He’s definitely one of the best I’ve played with, especially in the form he’s in just now. He’s absolutely flying and his goals are helping get us through games.”
While everyone connected with Hibs has a desire to see the club’s talisman stay, Doyle is particularly keen for such an outcome given the excellent working relationship they have struck up over the past few months. “We’ve got a really good partnership,” continued the Dubliner. “We’re never short of effort between us. We both always give 100 per cent. We help each other out and set each other up on the pitch. It’s very enjoyable to be part of a partnership like that so I just hope it continues.”
Griffiths has had to banish the demons of last season when he found himself in the headlines for gestures and bust-ups, rather than his ability. Doyle, however, insists his team-mate is not the hellraiser he was widely portrayed as. “Leigh’s a nice guy and is a great character to have around the dressing room,” he continues. “He’s been an absolute sensation on the pitch for us, but off the pitch he’s just another one of the lads. He likes a laugh and enjoys the banter when it’s flying around, but when it comes to the serious stuff in training he always gives 100 per cent. I don’t see why he can’t keep this scoring run going. He’s enjoying himself and has a good team round about him, so as long as we all help him out, there’s no reason why he can’t keep scoring.”
The same could be said of Doyle himself, who has looked an accomplished finisher this season after a slow start to his Hibs career following his arrival from Sligo Rovers back in January. “I’ve worked really hard on my game and the gaffer’s shown a lot of confidence in me by keeping me in the team,” he said. “Apart from Saturday’s game [the 3-1 loss at Dundee], I’m fairly happy with my performances and I’m really enjoying myself, which is the most important thing. It gives you confidence when you see yourself fairly high up the scoring charts, but I feel I should probably have more than five goals. I’ve not set myself any targets. I just need to keep giving everything I have, which is what I’ve been doing so far.”
Doyle and his team-mates, of course, have slightly had the wind removed from their sails by the surprise defeat at Dens Park, but the Irishman insists it is a sign of their progress that there is no hint of panic in the aftermath of such a setback. Hibs have had their blips so far this season – notably the League Cup exit at Queen of the South and the SPL defeat at Ross County – but have generally bounced back in emphatic fashion. They will hope to do so again at Easter Road this Saturday when an Aberdeen side who have enjoyed a similar resurgence to themselves this season come calling.
“Saturday’s game was a wake-up call for us,” said Doyle. “It reminded us that we need to apply ourselves in every game and we’ll definitely put on a better show this weekend, that’s for sure. We weren’t at the races at all in Dundee so we’ve got to put that right this weekend. We’ve got a big game to get it out of our systems and we wouldn’t have it any other way.”