Every so often, serendipity brings together a player and a football club that simply seem meant for each other.
For Hibernian Football Club, that player was Martin Boyle.
The Aberdeen born Australian international arrived at Easter Road in January 2015, looking for a lifeline; Boyle was struggling to find his feet in the Premiership with Dundee, while Hibernian, themselves going through their own hardships in the Scottish second tier.
Hibs offered him a way out, a chance to revitalise his stuttering career.
Whether it was difficulty or destiny that drew them together, one thing is for sure; Hibernian Football Club and Martin Boyle were a match made in heaven.
But all good things come to an end.
After seven beautiful years together, it was finally confirmed on Friday that Boyle would be leaving Easter Road – a life changing offer from Saudi Pro League side Al-Faisaly proving too good to turn down.
In the immediate aftermath of the news, Kick360 caught up with Liam McLennan of the HibsTalk podcast, to reflect on the Socceroo’s transfer and how he will be remembered at Hibernian.
“I think, for me, he’s got to be in the Top 10 players I’ve seen play for Hibs, if not the Top 5.” Says the lifelong Hibee.
“The amount of important goals he scored for Hibs, in important games, he turned up for big moments, he’s been an important player for the last seven years we’ve had him.”
His talent on the park was but a part of the puzzle; after all talented players come and go.
It was his infectious character, his passion and his clear love for pulling on the iconic green jersey that set him apart from the rest.
“After we won the Cup [2016 League Cup], it was well documented that he went on a complete bender for about five or six days! It’s not only his footballing ability, but his character too, y’know?
“We could see from the stands that he grew to love the club quite a bit… anyone who comes in to your club and looks like they are loving it themselves, and loving playing for the club and having a great time is bound to be a fan favourite.
“In the modern game, there’s a lot of players that just come in and do the job. Don’t really have a strong affinity with the club. To see someone come in and be there for so long… when he first came in, if you said to me or to anyone that he’d be here for seven years and become a fan favourite, I would have had a double take… but for someone to come in and take the club to heart, it really does mean a lot to the fans.”
In recent years, Boyle has been a stand-out performer; not just for Hibs but in the Scottish Premiership, and on the international stage for the Socceroos.
It was little surprise then that hometown club Aberdeen and Scottish powerhouses Celtic had been linked with moves for the forward. Hibs fans were always braced to lose him one day.
But the Al-Faisaly deal and the speed that it was concluded was not something McLennan was prepared for.
“It has come a little bit from left field, this club from Saudi Arabia, but when you’re looking at it from a business perspective, not a fans perspective, he has given us seven good years, helped win us the cup, helped get us promoted, third place, European football… but he’s going to be 29 in a couple of months. If the fee was £3m, it’s a brilliant piece of business.
“I don’t think you’ll see any Hibs fan begrudging him the move. He’s made the club money, he’s given us his all and now he’s off to make himself a bit of dosh now… I’m delighted for him.”
Having already turned down two big money offers from the Saudi Pro League side in the window, Hibernian set their asking price; If Al-Faisaly wanted Martin Boyle it would cost them £3m.
Given the financial might of the Gulf state, it seemed only a matter of time before they would meet the demands.
Given Boyle’s importance to Hibs, and how much they have struggled when he’s not been in the side, some were left wondering, was Boyle worth more to the team than any transfer fee?
“If you’d asked me at the start of the window for a price, I don’t think I would have give you a price.” Concedes McLennan.
“The contribution he has made to Hibs over the last few, this season and last season especially, has been unparalleled for any other player.
“Is Martin Boyle worth more to Hibs than £3m? Probably, yeah. But when that interest came about and he wanted to pursue it, yes you can knock back the offers all you want but do you want him to have a bitter taste in his mouth when he does leave?
“It’s going to be difficult to replace not only his talent, his pace, his goals, his personality around the dressing room and the training ground.”
While there is some uncertainty around how Hibs can replace their star man, one thing is for sure, Martin Boyle’s legacy remains intact.
“If you have a look at how social media has been, Twitter especially, it’s been full of good memories, good messages, nice messages for Boyley. I definitely think he will be remembered in a good light, similarly to John McGinn when he moved to Villa.
“I think the way that he’s went about making the move, he’s not forced his way out of Hibs, I think he understood that they had a valuation of him and they understood he was looking to pursue this opportunity.
“I’m glad that it worked out positively for him, because he’s given everything for us. It’s probably fitting that we gave him a little bit back.”
Image Source: Socceroos