Neil Lennon has admitted Easter Road will be like a ghost town next week with eight Hibs players away on international duty – but he’s delighted to see so many of his squad getting such recognition.
Martin Boyle has become the latest addition to the club’s international contingent after being called up by Australia, the winger joining team-mate Mark Milligan as the Socceroos get together for a training camp in the Middle East, and a friendly against Kuwait.
Also off on their travels will be Ryan Porteous, Stevie Mallan and Oli Shaw, the trio part of the Scotland Under-21 squad facing a crunch European Championship qualifying double-header against Ukraine and England while Daryl Horgan, Vykintas Slivka and Thomas Agyepong have been called up by the Republic of Ireland, Lithuania and Ghana respectively.
“It’s incredible,” admitted Lennon. “I had that at Celic, you’d see the tumbleweed floating past on a Monday when all the boys were away. You’re left twiddling your thumbs and hoping they all come back fit with no injury worries.
“But you want them to go away and play for their countries, it’s important for them, it’s recognition for the club as well. When you see the Ghana squad and at the bottom it says ‘Agyepong, Hibs,’ it’s surreal.”
Lennon admitted he was delighted to see Boyle being drafted into the Australian squad, describing the former Montrose and Dundee winger as the most improved player he has seen in his time as Hibs head coach.
He said: “Martin is physically stronger and he has more self-belief. He’s always had that pace and good movement but I think there is more positivity in his game in terms of being more direct. His athleticism is good, he’s willing to listen and learn and he has a great enthusiasm for the game.
“Obviously there are aspects of his game that he can improve on and he knows that, but he’s a big, big asset in the way we want to play.”
Lennon, though, had a word of warning for Boyle, saying: “It’s a good story, a few years ago he was playing at Montrose, he has done his bit. I wouldn’t say he’s at the top of his game but he is getting there and he’s playing at a very high level.
“He’s got international recognition. The tough bit is staying there and getting into the Australian team on a regular basis. It’s up to him now. Can he keep improving at first team level here? That’s the incentive and motivation for him now.”
Hibs are aiming to go into the international break having clocked up a fourth successive Ladbrokes Premiership win as they take on Hamilton today, Lennon convinced his squad is in much better shape than they were in losing to Livingston before the previous such interlude in the domestic season.
He said: “The first few days after the Livingston game were hard to stomach. You analyse things to death in your head but I didn’t think we were in a great place as a squad then with injuries and players still getting up to speed.
“I think we are in a far stronger position now than we were then in terms of the compliment of players. We’ve been brilliant ever since and I just want us to maintain that consistency. There is a quiet confidence about the players at the moment, not complacent or arrogant.
“We’re delighted with the turnaround we have had and the transition we have made with the likes of McGinn, McGeouch and Allan leaving. We’ve maybe had to look to some other places to bring players in with the budget we have, but the players we have brought in are adding to what we already had.
“I was lucky. I inherited a good squad from Alan Stubbs and we have slowly but surely built on that.”