Why Hibs may soon need to field big bids for star man Martin Boyle
Attacker has fought back from two injuries and is undoubtedly Hibs' key player - and other clubs will start to take notice, writes Anthony Brown
While the likes of Florian Kamberi, Scott Allan and Ryan Porteous could all be considered among Hibs’ most prized assets, Martin Boyle is undoubtedly the jewel in the Easter Road crown.
After being stopped in his upwardly-mobile tracks by a serious knee injury first sustained just over a year ago, it seemed reasonable to wonder if Boyle, whose game is so reliant on his explosive pace, would be a diminished force following the momentum-halting lay-off which effectively left him sidelined for three-quarters of 2019.
Any such notion has been emphatically trashed by his contributions since he returned to action a few months ago.
Indeed, it is worth recalling that in his first game back, as a late substitute against Livingston at Easter Road on 30 October, Boyle raced clear to notch a well-executed stoppage-time equaliser in what was Paul Heckingbottom’s final league game in charge.
Although he had to bide his time on the bench for another month or so as the team picked up following the Yorkshireman’s sacking, Boyle was still coming off the bench to make an impact, most notably in the 2-1 win away to St Mirren in late November when he played the closing 38 minutes and won the penalty that effectively sealed the three points for Jack Ross’s side.
Since returning to the starting lineup for the 2-1 defeat at Ross County in early December, Boyle has been at the heart of almost everything good Hibs have done. He scored a double in both of the victories they enjoyed within this period - against Aberdeen and Hearts last month.
And he was again the outstanding player on the pitch yesterday as Hibs produced an enterprising attacking performance at Tannadice in a Scottish Cup tie which really should have brought a victory over a high-flying Dundee United side who managed to eke out a 2-2 Scottish Cup draw by scoring with their only two shots on target.
Boyle set up Christian Doidge’s opener with some clever, incisive play wide on the right and then restored Hibs’ lead with a brilliant strike from distance early in the second half. That goal made it six for the season for Boyle, equalling his highest previous tally for Hibs even though he has only made seven starts and 16 appearances in total this term.
Beyond his assist and his goal, he was a constant menace to United, prompting high praise on social media not just from supporters of Hibs who have grown to idolise him but also from fans of other clubs.
There were Dundee supporters ruing the fact their club allowed him to leave so easily five years ago and also some Celtic fans suggesting their team should sign him to provide competition for James Forrest.
Since the start of 2015, Boyle has gone from Dundee dispensable, to inconsistent Hibs squad man under Alan Stubbs, to vital cog in the machine under Neil Lennon and, since returning from injury, to being the team’s talisman.
Players who reach such status at Easter Road rarely go unnoticed by other more moneyed clubs, especially when the man in question is still only 26 and seemingly with plenty scope to continue improving.
With only 18 months remaining on his contract, Hibs are not currently in a particularly strong position with regard to protecting their main asset despite having had the foresight to hand him a four-year deal in 2017 when he wasn’t quite the big hitter he is now.
In his current form, the Easter Road club will be doing well to keep hold of their burgeoning Aberdonian buzzbomb beyond this summer. The vultures are sure to be circling soon as Boyle continues soaring to new heights.