The self-confessed “bit of a headless chicken”, who gained notoriety for going on a substantial bender in the aftermath of the 2016 Scottish Cup final, knuckled down and became a key, virtually irreplaceable part of several Hibs teams.
His various managers at Easter Road deserve credit for helping develop different parts of his game to the extent that latterly he would have been the first name on the team sheet, such was his talent and threat.
It isn't just his skill on the pitch that Hibs need to replace, it’s his presence in the dressing room and on the training ground as a team-mate, a jester, and a friend. A while back, Ryan Porteous was interviewed by HibsTV as he came back from a long-term injury.
Fortunately the dressing room is close-knit and won’t be completely devoid of character – but there won’t be any quite like Boyle.
Life after Boyle
Against Cove Rangers we got an insight into the post-Boyle era at Easter Road. Chris Mueller took on something of a free role in the final third but will inevitably be looked upon as the closest replacement given his winger tendencies.
The complexity of the issue is that – with apologies to Liam Neeson – Boyle has a very particular set of skills; skills he acquired over a long time at Easter Road, skills that make him a nightmare for defenders.
Even with the large part of £3 million to play with, it is not simply a case of the recruitment team identifying four or five identikit wingers and getting Shaun Maloney to take his pick. But there will be a list of players who could in some way, shape, or form help fill the void left by his departure.
Maloney had to rejig things against Cove and will have to do so again in the long-term but that might not necessarily be a bad thing.
Hibs understandably relied on Boyle’s attacking output and when it worked, he was virtually unplayable. When teams sussed it out, or put two men on the winger, Hibs often struggled to locate a back-up plan.
So it could be the case that Hibs will, through necessity, be more of an unknown quantity and that could end up being a big boost.
Who might come in?
Hibs have a long list of potential targets who could help fill the Boyle-shaped space in the starting team – not including Demetri Mitchell.
Not all of them will be wingers, although a good number will be. Mueller showed evidence of pace and trickery against Cove but a bit more speed in the team wouldn’t go amiss.
The main thing is ensuring that they can replace the goals that Boyle contributed. Fourteen in all competitions by the end of the calendar year was some effort and if Hibs can identify how to keep the goals coming then Boyle’s absence might not be so keenly felt. How easily they manage that is another question.