Hibs’ Martin Boyle: I’m happy to take Graham Arnold’s Australia calls at 4am
Most of us would groan and begin cursing whoever was at the other end of the phone if we were woken from our slumbers at four in the morning.
Bleary-eyed he may have been, but Hibs winger Martin Boyle couldn’t have been happier to receive such calls, spotting straight away that the number coming up was that of Australian coach Graham Arnold.
Although 10,500 miles away, the Socceroos boss reminded Boyle that even if he was a bit forgetful of the time difference between Sydney and Edinburgh, the Easter Road player remained very much in his thoughts.
For it was on the eve of representing the Aussies at the Asian Cup at the beginning of January that Boyle suffered a serious knee injury, one which brought his season to a premature end and saw him on the operating table.
It was a cruel blow for Boyle, who had committed his international football to the Aussies, eligible thanks to the fact his father Graeme had been born Down Under.
As the Evening News revealed, Arnold intents to visit Scotland next month to check on Boyle’s recovery and will no doubt have been heartened by the news that the 26-year-old had played 45 minutes of Hibs’ first pre-season match away to Arbroath.
But, as Boyle revealed, “Arnie” has been taking a close interest in his rehabilitation over the past six months.
He said: “He phones me at all hours of the morning, I think he forgets about the time difference, but I pick up anyway.
“The last time it was four or five in the morning. No-one likes being woken up at that time by the phone, but it’s refreshing to hear him, nice that he’s keeping tabs on me.”
Arnold has made it clear Boyle remains very much in his thoughts as Australia face a challenging schedule over the next year, aiming to qualify for the 2022 World Cup finals while also accepting an invitation to next year’s Copa America, which will be played in Colombia and Argentina.
Boyle, however, insisted that if he is to be part of it all, he has to rediscover the form he’d been producing before catching Arnold’s eye in the first place.
To that end, that first-half appearance in the inauspicious surroundings of Gayfield Park was but a first small step towards that goal.
Boyle said: “It was really good to be back. I’ve been chomping at the bit since I had the operation and watching the remaining games of last season was tough to take.
“It was a bit bitter sweet to be back out there. Unfortunately you can’t control these things, they happen.
“It’s just how you bounce back and hopefully I can bounce back better and stronger. For me, it’s a case of easing myself back in and hopefully I’ll have a good pre-season. We’ve got a lot of games coming up in the next few weeks so we’ll all be getting minutes of game time under our belts.
“As far as Australia is concerned, it’s nice to hear I’m still in Arnie’s thoughts, but I won’t be if I’m not doing the business here. I’ve noticed we’ve got quite a schedule of World Cup qualifying matches and then the Copa America coming up, but that’s what you are working towards, playing in big international matches.
“But my main focus is getting fully fit, back to my best and enjoying football again. Then, hopefully, I give him a decision to make.”
Boyle’s outing on Wednesday night was the first chance Hibs head coach Paul Heckingbottom has had to see Boyle in action but has already insisted on one-to-one training sessions with him. He said: “It was tough, he certainly gets you working the way he wants. We’ve done a lot together but hopefully I can show the benefits and stay in the squad.”