Shaun Maloney opens up on Martin Boyle transfer saga as Hibs boss eyes victory on return to Celtic
For anyone who has ever watched Martin Boyle play football, or played alongside him, or interviewed him for TV, radio, or the newspapers, reports of the bubbly winger furiously demanding showdown talks with the Hibs hierarchy over a rumoured move to the Middle East were hard to comprehend.
Especially when, according to Easter Road manager Shaun Maloney, things were very different.
"Any conversation I have had with Martin has been the opposite. I’ve had a few conversations with him in person over the last few days. It’s been very calm as usual. The conversations we have had have not been any different,” he said as he previewed Monday night’s trip to face Celtic.
"The subject might be more important in terms of the interest in him but there has been no anger on either side. We can speak really openly.
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"Martin is going through this, we have discussed it, we have clarity on it. He knows the situation and, at the moment, there isn’t a decision that needs to be made.
"It’s just something that all players now have to deal with. The amount of media and interest that comes now with the windows being open, I think players are pretty experienced now in having to deal with that.”
As for whether the door has been closed on a possible Boyle exit, Maloney was pragmatic.
"I think we have to be aware that the situation might change. If that happens, you just have to adapt to it. At the moment, there isn’t a decision to be made.
"The club have a valuation, and until that valuation is met, we are not at a moment where we have to make a decision.
"Martin and I are really clear, that’s probably the best part. As long as that stays the same, and we communicate almost every day – like I do with each player – then I don’t really see any issue, no matter what comes in the next days or weeks."
Monday night’s opponents were also credited with an interest but Maloney isn’t letting that affect his selection for the resumption of league duty.
"Martin is the same as everyone else in the squad: available for selection, and then I make that decision closer to the game. He was very, very good in training on Friday. He really took on board some of the messages we were trying to get across. As long as we have that clarity and we communicate, I don’t see any issues really.”
Hibs have already brought in six new players this month with Rocky Bushiri, Harry Clarke, Ewan Henderson, and Elias Melkersen joining Chris Mueller and Dylan Tait. Jamie Gullan has left on a permanent basis, joining Raith Rovers, while winger Daniel Mackay moved to Kilmarnock on loan for the remainder of the season.
Maloney is pleased with the current balance of the group and paid tribute to the Hibs hierarchy.
"I’m really happy with the squad we have. I have to be grateful that the club, the CEO and the owner, have got that business done as quickly as we have. It actually allowed me to work with these players on the pitch. To get them in that quickly in January, I appreciate the work that has gone into that. Very happy just now.
Despite the winter break giving him more time with his players, Maloney is careful not to rush things in terms of implementing his style of play on the squad.
“The break has given me a bit of time to learn more about the players away from football. It’s been hard on the training pitch too and we’ve had numerous sessions each day, that period of time has been really beneficial,” he explained.
“There will be stages and it depends on principles that I want to do – I don’t want to give them everything in a short period of time.
“The players have been really responsive and picked it up really quickly. Even against Aberdeen and Dundee United with limited time on the pitch they took on board a lot of the messages we were giving them.
“I’m looking forward to Monday to see how we do it in an intense environment. It’s great news to have the supporters back but also the way Celtic play it will be very intense as they try to press us extremely high.”
Maloney is returning to Celtic Park, a place he knows well, having come through the youth ranks, had two spells in the first team, and returned in a coaching capacity. He appreciates the sentimental aspect of the game but insists he has been concentrating only on Hibs.
"I spent many great years there and learned under some great managers and coaches and got very close with some of the ex-players who have done amazing things in their history.
“The last few days I’ve been focused on preparing my team for a football match, that has to be the focus.
“It’s important for everyone that the stadium will be full. It’s positive for the players but moreso the fans actually getting back in to watch their team.
“It’s really positive we’re getting back to that.”
The last time Hibs beat Celtic at Parkhead, in January 2010, Maloney was still playing for the Bhoys, albeit not involved in the match. Could he end Celtic's unbeaten run at home against the Capital club?
“I certainly believe we can. It’s a great challenge. There’s no reason why we can’t go there and win.
“I am really looking forward to seeing how we are. It’s very early in the process of how I’m trying to get my team to play and I feel this way is the best to win.
“But I’m looking forward to seeing how we perform under the intense pressure of how Celtic play and also the full house. We have to believe we can win the game.”