This time last year, Martin Boyle was looking forward to a sunshine break in Dubai with then team-mates Dylan McGeouch and Danny Swanson, little thinking that 12 months later he would be heading back but with his boots tucked under his arm.
Playing international football with Australia was the furthest thing from his mind but immediately after Hibs’ match with Rangers on Boxing Day he’ll be jetting out to join the Socceroos squad in the Middle East as they look forward to defending their Asian Cup crown.
“From where I’ve come from, the rise has just been astonishing,” admitted the former Montrose winger, who qualifies for the Aussies thanks to his father Graeme having been born in Sydney.
“I didn’t know I had been called up until a few days ago,” added the winger who took his chance to impress coach Graham Arnold in two friendly matches last month, scoring twice on his full debut. “You’ve just got to wait by your phone. I was ecstatic. I proved what I can do in the last camp, but you need to keep showing that.”
Australia will play Jordan, Palestine and Syria in their qualifying group of the Asian Cup, the equivalent of our European Championships. And they could play seven matches in total should they go all the way in a tournament which runs into early February.
For an international rookie it will be an eye-opening experience. And Boyle added: “It’s a major tournament and we’ll be expecting to go there and challenge.
“Australia are the holders so you don’t want to let that go easily and the manager’s picked a good squad – young, energetic – and the expectations are that they should be challenging.
“They are all big games and good experience as well. I’ll see different countries, each team will bring different challenges and it’s way different from European football. It will be brilliant and I’m thoroughly looking forward to it.”
Boyle will be accompanied by Hibs team-mates Mark Milligan, the veteran Aussie captain, and striker Jamie Maclaren, with all three missing next Saturday’s Edinburgh derby, a fact which has annoyed boss Neil Lennon.
Boyle says the three are bitterly disappointed to be sitting out the visit of Hearts but, the 25-year-old insisted, Lennon’s squad is strong enough to cope with their absence.
He said: “It’s a massive game, a derby at New Year and nobody wants to miss that. But at the end of the day, it’s a sacrifice that has to be made. The clubs and the country have been talking to each other and the decision’s been made.
“We would like to play but as far as I’m aware the decision has been made. We are going away to play in a major tournament for our country. It could be seven games but I wouldn’t change it for the world. We have players who can step up and I am sure they will.”
Boyle conceded that, along with Milligan and Maclaren, he may run the risk that by the time they return others will have taken their jerseys, something he insisted he shall deal with when that time comes.
“There’s been boys champing at the bit to play all year, so I’ll just have to keep my head down, work hard and hopefully get my shirt back.”
Boyle also revealed he shall have his own fan club among those cheering on the Aussies with his fiancée Rachael Small planning to fly out along with their months old daughter, his father and other family members.
He said: “They’re all coming over so that’ll be hectic for them over the New Year.
“My dad is always on the phone telling me how proud he is, he’s coming down today as well, he puts in the miles to watch me play, my mum too which is appreciated.”