When summoned to Neil Lennon’s office, Martin Boyle wasn’t quite quaking in his boots but he was, nevertheless, more than a touch apprehensive.
Try as he might as he racked his brain, he simply couldn’t think what he’d done that might have incurred the displeasure of his head coach.
However, any worries he may have had as he stepped through that door were quickly dispelled. Rather than the dressing down he was half expecting, came the offer of a new contract.
The fact Boyle had only signed a two-year deal a few months ago meant the news naturally took him by total surprise but he had no hesitation on shaking hands on an agreement which will tie him to the Easter Road outfit until the summer of 2021.
“I thought I’d got myself into a little bit of bother,” confessed the 24-year-old. “All the boys were saying ‘oh, oh’. It’s a scary thing to be called into his office. I was going in trying to think what I’d done over the previous few weeks but he sat me down, he was happy and I was committed right away.
“I can’t see myself going anywhere else. I feel as if I am still learning here and still have a lot to prove. The gaffer has brought out the game in me.”
Signed initially on loan from Dundee on a six-month deal by former Hibs boss Alan Stubbs, Boyle made the switch permanent, signing a two-year deal and in his first season he was part of the squad – although an unused substitute on the day – which enjoyed that historic Scottish Cup triumph while his second brought the Championship title and, with it, promotion to the Premiership.
However, Boyle would probably be among the first to admit that this season has seen the best of him, a fact reflected in the former Montrose player winning a lengthy extension.
And that, he insisted, was very much down to Lennon. Agreeing it was something of a rarity for players to be offered such long-term deals in today’s game, Boyle said: “I’ve never been in this position in my life before, usually it’s been from season to season.
“The manager has brought a real belief in me. He’s the one man you don’t want to let down – he has that fear factor in him. He’s told me to take the ball down the line, that if I lose it 100 times to do it again. He’s brought more to my game, there’s still a bit more to learn and I need to bulk up a bit more.”
So far this season, Boyle has scored five goals and had a hand in nine others, leading Lennon to wax lyrical about his pace and power as he announced the player’s new deal to the club’s annual general meeting before watching him turn in a man-of-the-match performance as Hibs came from two goals down to snatch a point and almost smash Celtic’s record unbeaten run.
And, revealed Boyle, while Lennon expressed his pride in that stunning fightback, the former Celtic boss remained totally unforgiving with even teenager Oli Shaw, scorer of Hibs’ equaliser – who was denied the match-winner only by Mikael Lustig’s goal-line clearance – not spared.
He said: “It’s all credit to the boys, 2-0 down and Celtic getting into their stride but we get a goal back and the game starts to change. Young Oli comes off the bench when they are bringing on the likes of Moussa Dembele and gets a goal like he did in the Betfred Cup semi-final against Celtic.
“We believe in ourselves. We could have won it at the end, but we could have lost it. It could have gone either way, but it was a good entertaining game. We could have done with the three points, but that would have been a tough ask. However, we have good spirit, a never-say-die attitude. If we lose a goal we don’t drop our heads and go under.
“He is a real winner. We’ve been a few goals down before and come back, that’s what the gaffer has brought into our game.”
And that was reflected in the home dressing-room afterwards. Boyle said: “Oli had done well, scored a goal and the gaffer has gone through him a bit. He went through a few of us.
“There have been games we’ve won this season and he’s still not been happy. It’s just the way he is. He is a real winner and he wants to bring that here. We are all with him. He’s been a winner in his career, he is a right fighter and everyone has jumped on the bandwagon with him, to challenge and go as far as we can.”
With Rangers coming to Easter Road tomorrow night before Hibs travel to face Aberdeen on Saturday, Boyle agreed this week would provide a good barometer as to where he and his team-mates stand in the battle for second place after three games against the sides immediately above them in the space of just six days.
Insisting the draw with Celtic was “a decent start” to the week, he echoed Lennon’s belief that Hibs, even although they are just back in the top flight after a three-year absence, can challenge for second place, saying: “Come through these three games unscathed and we have a chance of doing it.