Martin Boyle is hopeful that he’ll be fit enough to play a part in Hibs’ Championship opener at Dumbarton in seven weeks’ time.
The 22-year-old, who yesterday joined the Easter Road club on a two-year deal from Dundee, is still recovering from the ruptured medial ligament that he suffered in the Hibees’ 3-0 win away to Falkirk on the last day of the regulation season at the start of May. The injury destroyed his chances of taking part in the play-offs and meant he was powerless as Hibs, with whom he had been on loan since January, had their promotion bid destroyed by Rangers over two legs.
After undergoing reconstructive surgery last month, the little attacker is now walking freely.
While the Hibs squad report for pre-season next week, Boyle may have to wait a while longer to get involved with his team-mates.
He has a meeting with a consultant early next week to determine how well he is recovering, but indications are that he will only be a couple of weeks behind his colleagues in terms of being able to begin his preparations for the new season.
“I saw the specialist about two weeks ago and he said that I should be fully functional within four weeks of that meeting,” Boyle explained.
“I’ve to see him again this Monday. It’s basically a case of taking my time.
“It’s my first injury I’ve had as a professional football player. I might be a few weeks behind the rest of the lads, but fingers crossed I’ll be ready for the start of the season. I just need to keep working hard and hopefully when the first game comes round I’m right back in the mix.”
Boyle is grateful to head coach Alan Stubbs for pushing the boat out to sign him even though he is still recovering from injury. “It was a real show of faith for the club to sign me while I was injured,” he said. “I was extremely grateful to the manager. He was phoning me all the time to see how I was and said it was great to see me at the Rangers game [the home play-off match] when I was injured. Hopefully I can repay the club for the faith they showed in me.”
Boyle was devastated at being unable to help Hibs in the play-offs last month as Rangers beat them 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final.
“I was on my sofa watching the first game at Ibrox and in the crowd for the game at Easter Road,” he said.
“I travelled down after physio in Dundee and came to the game on crutches. I went down to see the boys before the match to wish them luck and I saw them afterwards – they were just as devastated as I was. I felt like just as much a part of it as them. It was harder to watch than it would have been playing in those games. The boys were disappointed, but I wanted to be there kicking a ball – you wonder if you could have made a difference, you feel helpless. I wanted to be on the pitch but it just wasn’t to be.”
At that point, Boyle expected to be staying on at Dundee. However, he insists he has made the right move for his career despite dropping from the Premiership to the Championship. “As far as I was aware at that time, I was coming back to Dundee,” he explained. “They were doing some physio on me because they wanted me back.
“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 again. I think the likes of Hibs, St Mirren and Rangers are as good as Premiership clubs and it makes the Championship really exciting – I don’t agree with the suggestion I am dropping down.
“The size of the club and the way the club treated me were big factors in me signing for Hibs. I was really happy here last season. I was playing fairly regularly and starting to get a good run of form. The gaffer is definitely building for the future with this team. There’s good times round the corner for Hibs.”
Once fully fit, Boyle intends to build on the form he showed towards the end of his loan spell at Hibs. “I was getting a bit of freedom in the 4-3-3 towards the end of the season and I felt my performances were coming on and I was getting a few goals,” he said. “But then I got that sucker punch in the Falkirk game, which was a real blow. Hopefully I can come back from this injury and show more of what I’m capable of next season. I want to come back and show the manager what I can do and repay his faith in me.”