Martin Boyle return would show intent from Hibs - who no longer look like a one-man band
“Hello, Martin. So what have you been up to, for six months?”
In a week that Hibs produced a Trainspotting-inspired video to promote the upcoming Edinburgh derby with Hearts at Easter Road, forgive this writer for borrowing a bit of inspiration from the film’s sequel, as rumours of a Martin Boyle return from Saudi Arabia gather pace.
"Choose Boyle, pace, goals and assists, in the hope that it helps you to third place. Choose an Australian internationalist made in Scotland who has the ability to change a game. Choose a charismatic attacker who can get fans off their seats and terrorise opposition defences. Choose an effervescent forward who can score Hampden hat-tricks against Rangers and Boxing Day doubles against Hearts.”
You get the idea.
The situation – whether or not Hibs can bring Boyle back – is complex, that much is clear. Tax laws come into it, transfer fees, wages. Not that Hibs are twiddling their thumbs; they have spoken to the player and are believed to be working hard on creating a set of circumstances that would allow the star man a Hibee homecoming.
All parties would stand to benefit from such a move. Hibs would have that additional attacking option that Lee Johnson has spoken about, especially in the wake of Aiden McGeady’s injury, and a fans’ favourite back; Boyle would be getting regular top-tier football ahead of Australia’s participation in the 2022 World Cup, and be home with his young daughter and wife Rachael, the Hibs Women midfielder, who is currently pregnant with the couple’s second child; and Al-Faisaly would get a high earner off their books ahead of a season where they will presumably have less cash as a result of relegation and, depending on how negotiations over a fee would go, would either recoup some of the money they have spent or not have to pay the full £3 million transfer fee.
As we said, complex.
Doubting fans may feel Hibs are unable to compete in terms of Boyle’s salary but this time it may not be all about the wage packet. There are several non-football factors at play.
Aberdeen are said to be interested, and Boyle’s presence at Pittodrie recently did little to dispel those rumours. But Hibs losing out on him to Aberdeen doesn’t bear thinking about. It would cause irreversible damage to the relationship between the fans and the club at a time when Hibs are still trying to build bridges with some sections of the support.
“We’re in the market still, there’s time,” Lee Johnson said after the St Johnstone game, when asked about further incomings. Owner Ron Gordon confirmed there have been ‘conversations’.
Boyle was very much Hibs’ talisman last season and should he come back this term there will be less pressure on him to be the focal point. But he could also be the difference between Europe and a top-six finish.
Hibs sealing his return would be a statement of intent. It could even shift a few hundred more season tickets. There would be another big character in the dressing room, and Ryan Porteous would have his best pal back.
There is an eternal debate about players returning to former clubs and whether or not it works but this is one comeback that might just work for everyone.