Socceroos attacker Martin Boyle believes the instant impact made by national teammate Jackson Irvine at Hibernian has turbo-charged the club’s Europa League ambitions.
Crowned the Scottish Premiership’s ‘star man’ last week after five goals in four games, Boyle’s recent hot streak has coincided with Irvine’s Easter Road entrance after six months in limbo following his Hull City exit.
Irvine has produced two assists - one for Boyle - in his six games to date, with Boyle making it five from four, and even missing a penalty, in the 2-0 defeat of Hamilton overnight.
The languid, pony-tailed workaholic is, in Boyle’s view, the godsend that keeps on giving
“It’s great having Jackson here ... he’s settled in so fast,” Boyle told The World Game.
“The attributes he’s got are really boosting us - he’s good with the ball at his feet, he gets around the pitch and he’s good in the air.
“He’s got a bit of everything. He gets his head up and sees the runs I’m making and is excellent to play with.
“I actually could have scored a few more than I have after he’s played me in.”
Boyle has been pleasantly surprised how swiftly Irvine, 27, has clicked through the gears after not playing a competitive match in 10 months prior to his return to Scotland, where he began life at Celtic before spells with Kilmarnock and Ross County.
“When a player is out for so long it can take a bit of time to get up to speed again,” added Boyle, whose previous knee problems sidelined him for long stretches.
“I obviously knew the talent he had from playing with the national team, but it’s a credit to him fitness-wise how fast he’s hit the ground running.
“He’s put in a lot of work behind the scenes and he’s only going to keep getting better, which is brilliant for us.”
With 10 goals in 28 appearances for the Edinburgh club this season, Boyle, 27, sees Europe as a holy grail with Hibernian holding a four-point buffer on fourth-placed Aberdeen.
“It would be an achievement for us to clinch European football,” he said.
“There’s still a lot to do, and there will be twists and turns, but if we keep playing the way we are (with five wins from their last six) we can establish ourselves as a European club.”
Boyle is relishing a free role in the final third, with coach Jack Ross harnessing his slick movement and ability to surge past defenders to both create and finish.
“The manager has got me playing in a more advanced role where I can roam about and hurt teams,” he explained.
“It’s working at the moment with the goal spree I’m on - I haven’t had a run like this before and I’m doing my best to make sure it continues.”
Contracted until mid-2023, Boyle was linked with fellow Socceroo Harry Souttar’s Stoke City seven months ago and is open to expanding his horizons at some point.
“I never set targets or anything like that,” he said. “But to move on to bigger and better things, who knows?
“I’m not disrespecting Hibs by saying they’re not a massive club because I’ve been here six years and they are.
“I think the players that have moved on from here have done brilliantly in their careers.
“But I’m focusing on what’s happening now. I committed to an extra two years not long ago, but if anything happens it happens.”
Having missed out on a lot of national team football, first through injury and then the coronavirus pandemic, Boyle is awaiting developments on whether the Socceroos’ FIFA World Cup qualifiers will resume in Nepal at the end of March.
“There’s going to be a lot of games coming up, which is good,” he said.
“For me, my international career has been a bit frustrating: missing a year through injury and now no games (for 15 months) because of COVID-19.
“I wouldn’t want to be the one planning things with so many obstacles (quarantine regulations and the like) but if there is a game in March I’d love to be involved again.”