Hibs’ fit-again Martin Boyle is back on Australia coach Arnold’s radar
Australian head coach Graham Arnold has revealed he plans to visit Easter Road early in the season to check on the fitness of Martin Boyle, believing the Hibs winger can play a key role in the Socceroos’ qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup finals.
Boyle, who is eligible to play for the Aussies thanks to his father Graeme having been born in Sydney, made an immediate impact on being called into Arnold’s squad towards the end of last year, scoring twice in his first start in a gold and green shirt.
But the 26-year-old was dealt a shattering blow on the eve of the Asian Cup, suffering a serious knee injury as he earned his third cap during their final warm-up match against Oman, not only ruling him out of the tournament but bringing his season to a premature end.
Boyle was forced to undergo surgery and a lengthy rehabilitation programme but is now back training with Paul Heckingbottom’s squad at East Mains as they ready themselves for the new season.
Arnold revealed he has been keeping a close eye on the player’s recovery over the past six months, telling The Evening News: “We have maintained regular dialogue with Martin and are well aware of his progress. Since he joined our set-up in the United Arab Emirates last October, he has made a great impression.
“He did very well in our November window last year against Korea Republic and Lebanon and, of course, was included in our Asian Cup squad before having to withdraw due to injury. We are in regular touch and are monitoring him closely. If he is fit and playing well I view him as a great option to be included in further Socceroos squads.”
Although it was only after the arrival of Jamie Maclaren – now back Down Under with Melbourne City – that the possibility of Boyle playing for Australia became widely known, Arnold revealed he had known of the former Montrose and Dundee player before then.
He said: “We were aware of Martin’s eligibility. However, Jamie also spoke highly of him and what he could possibly bring to the Socceroos. I watched many clips of him and also watched him live and liked what I saw.
“A fully-fit Martin Boyle adds to Australia’s attacking depth and when he’s been with the squad he’s added a lot of character and personality to the group. He has pace, the ability to beat players one-on-one and adds a goalscoring threat to our team. I believe Martin can play an important role in our upcoming qualification campaign but first and foremost he needs to start the next season well with Hibs and, like any player, earn selection in upcoming squads.
“I intend visiting Hibs in August when the Scottish Premiership season is back up and running. It would be great to meet Paul and his staff when I am in Edinburgh.”
The fact that, so far, Boyle has yet to play a competitive match for Australia means new Scotland boss Steve Clarke could still ask the Capital-born player to don a dark blue shirt, his predecessor Alex McLeish having previously revealed he had considered a call-up only to find the Hibs star was injured at that time.
But Arnold has no doubts about where Boyle’s loyalties now lie. He said: “Our conversations with Martin are that he is committed to Australia. He was devastated at missing the Asian Cup – he was so eager to represent Australia at that tournament.
“We have a number of competitive fixtures coming up over the next 12 months, including 2022 World Cup qualifiers and also the Copa America. If Martin is playing well and deserves to play in those games, he will.”