Martin Boyle a worthy winner at Hibs award bash - but team needs more candidates next season
When the Hibs Twitter account announced Martin Boyle as the winner of both the club’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards, it will have come as little surprise to followers of the Capital club.
The Australian internationalist has just signed off on his best season to date, scoring 15 goals and laying on ten more for his team-mates.
There were times when he dragged the team over the finishing line virtually by himself, which is why he was an unanimous choice for both the fans and his team-mates.
But while the voting may have been little more than a formality this time around, those inside Easter Road may be hoping for a bit more competition this time next year.
Boyle has gone from strength to strength at Hibs and even a dip in form attributed to issues off the field couldn’t detract from a sparkling season. Adding one or both cups to the third-place finish and European football would have been the cherry on top for the club but on an individual basis, the 28-year-old was unrivalled in terms of what he brought to the team.
At his best he is unplayable; a handful for opponents. His eye for goal, pace, versatility, skill from the penalty spot, and his double-figure assists mark him out as a crucial player in this Hibs team and one the club would find hard to replace were he to depart.
That being said, there are a number of players who could hope to rival Boyle next season in the end-of-term awards. If they can all hit the ground running then Hibs should be well-placed to build on, and better, the 2020/21 campaign.
Magennis to make his mark?
It's hard not to feel sorry for Kyle Magennis, who had a season interrupted by injury and illness – although he still managed 22 appearances in all competitions and a goal against Dundee United in a 1-1 draw in the Scottish Premiership.
Jack Ross began increasing the former St Mirren man’s minutes towards the end of the season and with a full pre-season under his belt and an understandable eagerness to show what he can do, the “little tank with a naughty, dark side” (copyright J. Newell) could prove to be a key player next season.
Jamie Murphy lived up to the adage with which he shares a name last season, enduring a frustrating time with injuries and crashing an effort off the woodwork in the Betfred Cup semi-final against St Johnstone that, had it gone in, might well have changed the outcome of the game.
He chipped in with two goals and four assists in 25 games but provided he can steer clear of the physio's room, he should be confident in beating both those stats next term.
The real Mackay
Plucking talented youngsters from smaller clubs and giving them a platform to develop has served Hibs well over the years and while Daniel Mackay’s arrival from Inverness Caledonian Thistle first and foremost beefs up the options on the left side, there are hopes that the winger can follow in Kevin Nisbet’s footsteps by seamlessly stepping up from the Scottish Championship to the top flight.
There may well be less on pressure on Mackay than Nisbet but the 20-year-old was a highly coveted player in the Highland capital and while wide players have a tendency to be inconsistent, there surely won't be many betting against Mackay making a splash in his debut Premiership campaign.
Alex is on fire
Alex Gogic's arrival in the summer of 2020 was welcomed by Hibs fans who had been aghast at the departures of Marvin Bartley and Mark Milligan under the previous regime. It was expected that the former Hamilton man would toughen up the midfield and protect the defence but over the course of the season he became so much more than just an enforcer. By the end of the campaign his passing had improved, he was getting forward to support the attack, and he was more of a threat at dead balls.
He will bounce back from the criticism levelled at him for his role in St Johnstone's goal in the cup final and if he can pick up where he left off in terms of performance levels, Hibs' defence will be well protected, and the midfield well equipped.
In safe hands with Macey
Assuming Matt Macey is installed as the club's new No.1 following the departure of Ofir Marciano, the former Arsenal ‘keeper has big gloves to fill – but he has already shown that he has the ability to do so.
The cup final penalty save and follow-up block were impressive on their own but there is plenty of evidence from the 26-year-old’s eight games in a Hibs shirt to date that he can make a name for himself rather than just being “Marciano’s replacement.”
The Israeli shot-stopper won plaudits for the number of points he won, or rescued for Hibs – Macey certainly has all the attributes to do likewise.
Best of the rest
That being said, football is an unpredictable game at the best of times and a lot depends on potential movement in the transfer window. All being well, players such as Scott Allan, Chris Cadden, Paul McGinn, Christian Doidge, Ryan Porteous, Joe Newell, and Kevin Nisbet will surely be no strangers to appreciative threads on fans’ forums and the SPFL team of the week.
Boyle is in the form of his life at the moment and undoubtedly played a huge role in Hibs’ third-place finish and progression to the latter stages of both cup competitions, but if the club is to kick on from this campaign and prove that they have what it takes on the big stage they will need a few more player-of-the-year contenders.