Martin Boyle grateful to Lee Johnson for Hibs return - but admits his own performances have to be better

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Hibs winger Martin Boyle insists he’ll always be grateful to Lee Johnson for securing his return to Easter Road from Saudi Arabia – but admits his own performances haven’t been good enough.

Johnson and his assistants Jamie McAllister and Adam Owen, who only joined the club in May last year, were relieved of their duties at the weekend after a 3-2 home defeat by Livingston consigned the Capital club to a third league loss on the bounce. One of Johnson’s key bits of recruitment last summer was to engineer a return for the Australian internationalist who had only left for Saudi Arabian side Al-Faisaly the previous January, but an injury suffered in October robbed him of a World Cup debut with the Socceroos and ruled him out of domestic action for the remainder of the campaign.

Previewing Thursday night’s second leg of the Europa Conference League play-off tie against Aston Villa, Boyle reflected on the previous few days at the club as well as his own displays since returning from injury.

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"I’m feeling fitter and stronger as the games go on – it’s been difficult for myself with a lot of games and having been out for ten months. It’s hard to get going. My own performances, I need to take responsibility for as well; they’ve been inconsistent. I’m happy I’ve come back and I’ve made some sort of impact,” he said.

Martin Boyle feels his own performances have to be better as he discussed the impact of Lee Johnson's departure on himself and the team. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS GroupMartin Boyle feels his own performances have to be better as he discussed the impact of Lee Johnson's departure on himself and the team. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS Group
Martin Boyle feels his own performances have to be better as he discussed the impact of Lee Johnson's departure on himself and the team. Picture: Ross Parker / SNS Group

“The games are must wins so it’s been tough for the manager to consistently play myself. There hasn’t been much break for myself to get that rest period I needed. Obviously three games in a week is a lot of load on myself. It’s difficult but I’m making myself available to play and I was champing at the bit to get back.”

Boyle left Hibs during Shaun Maloney’s tenure for Saudi Arabia, scoring four goals and registering two assists in 19 appearances for Al-Faisaly, who suffered relegation and paved the way for the 30-year-old to return to Edinburgh, with Johnson securing his return and handing him his second debut as a substitute against Hearts, against whom he scored an injury-time equaliser in the first Edinburgh derby of the campaign.

“The gaffer brought me back to the club and I’ll always be thankful for that. It didn’t quite work out at the start when I got injured; I tried to run through a brick wall for them when I was coming back. I wanted to play way before I was fit to help out the team. He knew I was passionate and dedicated enough to do that for them but football’s a ruthless game, I don’t know who would want to be a manager these days. We’re professional players and we have to put that to the back of our minds and the club will deal with the way forward.”

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Boyle has already played under David Gray during his first stint as interim manager and has backed the former Easter Road captain to take things in his stride once again.

“He’s obviously not had long. We worked on some tactics on Tuesday and we’ve done some videos on the opposition and little things like that. He’s got his own ideas that he wants to install in the team – whether it’s short-term, long-term, we don’t know yet. We’ll certainly give our all for him.

"He’s had the caretaker manager role before, he knows what it’s all about. He’s very professional in what he does. He wears his heart on his sleeve that man. Hopefully he’ll lead us in the right direction.”

Villa strolled to a 5-0 victory in the first leg, effectively ending the tie as a contest at the halfway point, but Boyle is hopeful that Hibs can restore a modicum of pride when they take to the Villa Park pitch on Thursday night.

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"It’s a great occasion, even if the scoreline would suggest otherwise. These are the games you want to play in. It’s a good opportunity for ourselves to put last week’s scoreline behind us. It’s a terrific ground, an opportunity for the fans – this is what we worked hard for last season, to get into competitions like this. Last week was disappointing but we can make it right with a good account of ourselves tomorrow.

“Villa are a top team who are doing extremely well at the moment. They’ve some outstanding players but we have to have some belief, go out and play with smiles on our faces and try to enjoy the occasion.”

Hibs have been arguably better in Europe than they have domestically – the aggregate victory over Luzern was impressive but three straight defeats including two 3-2 reversals at Easter Road, contributed to Johnson’s demise. But Boyle is at a loss to explain the team’s wildly fluctuating form.

“It’s definitely been inconsistent,” he continued. “There have been a few good results but at the weekend… we know ourselves as players it wasn’t good enough and we take responsibility for that. It’s just not been good enough. I think we are starting games way too late. We are scoring goals but at the same time we are conceding a lot.

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“We need to steady the ship and get that consistency. It’s been a tough start to the season but that’s no excuse. We’ve got to put that on ourselves, stick together as a team, work hard and hopefully the performances come.

“The Luzern games were brilliant for us but we’ve dropped those standards at the weekends. I’m not sure if it’s to do with different competitions. Maybe we gave everything for those two games, but our mentality shouldn’t be like that. We’re a big club and performances in the league haven’t been good enough. That’s why we are in the position we are. It’s why three people lost their jobs as well. We have to take responsibility and step up.”

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