THE PAIN of a ruptured medial ligament is not to be underestimated, as Martin Boyle is well placed to explain as he battles back from the serious knee injury which prematurely ended his season.
He concedes, however, that his physical discomfort was nothing compared to the internal anguish of powerlessly watching from the sidelines as Hibernian’s promotion dream perished at Easter Road.
The damage, sustained in innocuous fashion against Falkirk on 2 May, forced the 22-year-old to undergo serious surgery and confined him to crutches as Hibs embarked on their pivotal play-off encounters against Rangers.
Reduced to the role of cheerleader, Boyle reflected on the feeling of “devastation” as the capital club were consigned to another campaign in the Championship by virtue of a 2-1 aggregate defeat.
Boyle could be forgiven for pursuing a fresh start elsewhere, given the torturous end to the season he endured in Leith. Instead, it appears only to have strengthened his resolve to help Hibs back to the top flight.
He was yesterday unveiled as the club’s latest summer signing, penning a two-year deal after rejecting the opportunity to extend his three-year stay at Dundee.
The gaffer is definitely building for the future. There are good times around the corner for HibsMartin Boyle
“It was devastating to miss the playoffs,” reflected Boyle. “I was on my sofa for the game at Ibrox and in the crowd for the game at Easter Road. I travelled down after physio in Dundee and came to the game on crutches.
“I went down to see the boys in the dressing room before the match to wish them luck and I saw them afterwards.
“I think it was harder to watch than it would have been playing in those games. I wanted to be there kicking a ball… you just wonder if you could have made a difference, you feel helpless. I wanted to be on the pitch.
“The aim is to not go through that again. The manager is building a team here and I’m glad he wants me to be a part of it.”
Boyle, whose six-month stint in the capital coincided with Alex Harris being farmed out to Dens on loan, impressed at Easter Road, scoring three goals in 17 games and illustrating his versatility by performing admirably in an unfamiliar left wing-back role.
Indeed, Paul Hartley offered him a new deal at Dundee but the former Montrose man says the lure of returning to Leith was too strong.
Just do not try to convince him that he is taking a step down in quality by dropping a division.
“This felt like the right move,” continued Boyle. “It is a change for myself and a new adventure in my career.
“People have been saying ‘but you’ve left a top-flight team?’ I don’t really see the difference. This is a massive club and the aim is to win promotion and be playing in the top flight.
“The gaffer is definitely building for the future with this team. There are good times around the corner for Hibs.
“I don’t agree with the suggestion I am dropping down. I think the likes of Hibs, St Mirren and Rangers are as good as Premiership clubs and it makes the Championship really exciting.”
Speaking of Rangers, Ladbrokes – the new sponsors of the four divisions of the SPFL – raised a few eyebrows yesterday when they made Rangers favourites for their eponymous Championship, despite a mass exodus of senior players in Govan.
Those of a Hibs persuasion will be hopeful that the bookies are just as erroneous as when they tipped Rangers to claim the title ahead of Hearts last term.
Boyle is certainly of the opinion that, while Rangers are scrambling to piece together a starting XI under a new manager, Hibs are ready to hit the ground running.
They have already signed up Fraser Fyvie, Lewis Stevenson, Dan Carmichael and James Keatings ahead of the 2015-16 campaign and are keen to bring Liam Fontaine back to Edinburgh. “There might be a few new players still to come in but the bulk of the boys will be together for the first day of pre-season,” noted Boyle. “It should be a really positive factor for us.”
Head coach Alan Stubbs is also upbeat after the deal to sign Boyle was finalised. “We’re delighted to have Martin on board for the new season and that the deal is now all done and dusted,” explained Stubbs.
“He is still going through his rehab process, but hopefully we’ll have him back available for selection sooner rather than later.
“Martin is another valuable addition to the squad for what promises to be an exciting season.”