Hibs’ Martin Boyle ‘practising anthem in the bath’ as he dreams of Australia debut

Martin Boyle hopes to take part in the Asian Cup
Martin Boyle hopes to take part in the Asian Cup
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Martin Boyle has cut through all the red tape – now he just needs the green light to realise his dream of playing for Australia.

The Hibs winger has spent weeks completing all the necessary paperwork to allow him to play for the Socceroos and has his fingers crossed he will be picked for their forthcoming matches against South Korea and Lebanon.

Boyle qualifies to play for the Aussies thanks to his father Graeme having been born in Sydney and, although he would be setting foot in the country for the first time, he joked: “It will be good to be home.”

The 25-year-old has already had a taste of the international scene, joining coach Graham Arnold’s squad for a training camp in Dubai but unable to play in a friendly against Kuwait as he was then still officially classed as Scottish as far as FIFA were concerned.

But now he is ready to step on to a stage he admits he had barely thought about this time last year, the arrival of Australia striker Jamie Maclaren at Easter Road in the January transfer window having set the wheels in motion.

He said: “I’ve finally got my citizenship which means I am eligible to play for Australia. There’s been a lot of work going on behind the scenes and the Australian Football Federation have helped me quite a lot.

“It’s been quite a lengthy process, a lot of form-filling and, without their help, I’m sure it would have taken even longer. But it’s all been worth it .”

Arnold expressed his desire to have Boyle represent the country of his father’s birth despite Alex McLeish having shown an interest although the Scotland boss did admit he was well covered in his position already. And, in any case, as Boyle revealed, he had more or less made up his mind to commit himself to the Socceroos after meeting Arnold at East Mains training centre.

He said: “Graham watched something like 30 minutes of video clips of me playing and I think he liked what he saw, especially the way I linked up with Jamie.

“I think he liked the directness and pace I can bring to the squad. I’m not sure they have a player like me so I’m a different option for him. Since then he has kept in touch, sending me a text each time I’ve scored to say ‘well done, keep it up’.”

Nevertheless, Boyle admitted to having a few nerves as he travelled with Australian captain and Hibs team-mate Mark Milligan – Maclaren having been ruled out by a back injury – to last month’s training camp. He said: “It had been quite a while since I’d been the new boy.

“I’m usually outgoing, chirpy and up for a laugh but for the first hour I was a bit nervous, then I was back to my normal self. It was good to have Mark there while I also knew a few of the other boys who had played in Scotland. It let me see what a big figure Mark is. He’s well respected, an honest pro with a wealth of experience and is the new captain which, I imagine, is a huge honour for him.

“But they are an easy-going bunch of buys, top professionals there to do a job for their country.

“They told me there have been a few players who’ve got citizenship by descent but it’s pretty rare.

“It was actually quite a difficult situation for me because I’d been nursing a foot injury for a while. I needed to rest it, but I also wanted to go there and give it my best, not just do a few bits and bobs.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the week at the camp but it was a bit disappointing to be heading back to Scotland as they moved on to play in Kuwait because I couldn’t participate in the game.”

Next week’s international matches, as Boyle is well aware, represent the chance to stake his claim in the Australian squad which will travel to the United Arab Emirates in January to defend the AFC Asian Cup they hold, and open up a whole new world to him.

The Aussies have been drawn in a group alongside Jordan, Syria and Palestine in the 24-nation competition which also includes the likes of Japan, India, China and Thailand.

Former Montrose and Dundee player Boyle said: “It’s the equivalent of our European Championships.

“International football will obviously be new to me but the countries Australia play against will be a totally different experience, countries that we in Scotland will rarely, if ever, come up against.

“The boys have told me about all the different places they have been to and what an adventure it has been so I’d love to be part of that, going to unbelievable places where, they tell me, you see some real eye-opening scenes.

“I’ve never actually been to Australia so it would be good to be ‘home’.

“I think the squad is announced in the next few days and, if I am selected I’ll be very honoured and my family very proud. But then it will be up to me to work hard, give it my very best, show I am there on merit and hopefully do enough to be chosen again for the Asian Cup.”

And if he does line up alongside Milligan and Maclaren for the national anthems, Boyle is determined he won’t be caught stumbling over the words of Advance Australia Fair.

He said: “I’m learning it, I’m singing it in the bath, in the car, everywhere I go. I’ll have it locked down by the time I go and I’ll be belting it out if I’m standing in that line before the games.”