Steven Tweed admits he’d never have imagined as he handed a 16-year-old Martin Boyle a first-team debut for Montrose that the youngster would one day be playing on the international stage.
But today, with Boyle poised to be named in new Australian boss Graham Arnold’s first squad, Tweed believes the flying winger could now find the world at his feet.
Playing for the Socceroos will, claimed the former Hibs defender, see Boyle’s name becoming known far beyond these shores, his first cap likely to come in a friendly against Kuwait before two further matches against South Korea in Brisbane and Lebanon in Sydney next month to follow as Arnold’s squad prepare their defence of the AFC Asian Cup, which will take place in the United Arab Emirates in the new year.
Boyle was still two months short of his 17th birthday when Tweed, then in charge of Montrose, gave him the final few minutes of their Scottish Cup tie, coincidentally against Hibs at Easter Road, in February, 2010, a game they lost 5-1.
“Martin’s biggest asset, as we all know was his raw pace,” recalled Tweed. “He had that raw ability but at a part-time club you never have enough time to coach one individual to get the most out of them which can be done at a full-time club.
“Having said that, we must have done enough to show him off in that he went on to sign for Dundee and now he’s become a mainstay at Hibs.”
Eyebrows were raised when then Hibs head coach Alan Stubbs struck a deal to bring Boyle on loan for six months from Dens Park with Easter Road winger Alex Harris heading in the opposite direction.
Almost four years on, Boyle has become a key figure in Lennon’s plans, awarded a new long-term contract, and his game improving to the extent he might well have won a first Scotland cap had injury not prevented him from going on that end-of-season tour to Mexico and Peru.
National boss Alex McLeish was credited with further interest in him as he prepared to name his squad for next week’s UEFA Nations League match in Israel at a time when Arnold had made it known he’d already spoken to Boyle who, he revealed, was “very excited” about playing for Australia, his father Graeme having been born in Sydney.
Tweed believes the chance may have come just at the right time for Boyle with Aussie veterans such as Tim Cahill and captain Mile Jedanik quitting the international scene.
He said: “Playing international football is a big ask but Martin might not have a better chance of breaking in than he might have had a year or so ago.
“Graham Arnold is very well connected and he will have done his research and found someone who might fit into their system.”
Arnold met Boyle during a recent flying visit to acquaint himself with the managers of his not inconsiderable Australian contingent playing in Scotland but will no doubt be kept abreast of how the player is doing via his Easter Road team-mates Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren.
And it’s an opportunity Tweed, who played in Greece, England, Germany and Japan, believes Boyle should grasp with both hands.
He said: “It would be brilliant for his CV to have some caps to his name, to be able to say he has played international football. That could open the world up for him further on in his career. Australia will be playing in parts of the world Scotland or Scottish clubs rarely go.
“The Asian Cup, for instance, involves countries stretching from the Middle East to China and Japan, who knows where it might lead.”