After helping edge Australia closer to the World Cup finals earlier this summer, Martin Boyle is now determined to prove he can make his mark on Europe with Hibernian.
Boyle was afforded only a week off during the close-season because of international duty and will take to the field against Santa Coloma tonight just over a month since his last competitive outing.
Four consecutive wins for the Socceroos in their World Cup qualifiers in Kuwait, including a goal against Nepal, made all the hard work and sacrifices worth it. Turning his attentions to the Europa Conference League, the 28-year-old is desperate for Hibs to reap the rewards of their efforts in qualifying for the continental competition.
“We are not here to hang around,” he said. “We are trying to qualify for the group stage of European football. We put in all the hard work last season and we need to continue that.
“That is the main goal at the end of the day. We will take it game by game and take it as seriously as we can. We are not here for a jolly up and we know the rewards at the end of the day, and that’s qualifying for the group stages.
“We’ve got a great belief in this squad. Since the manager’s come in, he’s put a plan in place for what we want to achieve and we’re all working towards the same goal. We’ve heavily bought into that.
“We had a successful-ish season last year – minus a few cup games. But finishing third in the league was great for us. Hopefully we can go one step further this year and add European football to the equation.”
Boyle tasted action in the Europa League with Hibs against Brondby in 2016 and again two years later versus Asteras Tripolis and Molde.
However, since then he has become a regular with Australia and will approach the Easter Road club’s European challenge with greater confidence thanks to his international experiences.
“International football is completely different,” he added. “You play in different climates for a start, so you have to adapt to different conditions, which is much more difficult but enjoyable.
“And, obviously, you come across a far bigger range of players at a high level, some of whom are incredible and play in the Premier League and leagues beyond. So it’s great. I feel it makes me a better player at the same time.
“The last few years have been brilliant and if I’m doing well for my club I’m more likely to get picked for Australia. We did well over the summer beating the four teams that we did to get to the next stage of qualification for the World Cup, which is great.
“It meant I only got around a week to 10 days off, which wasn’t ideal as I had to quarantine on the way back. There wasn’t a lot of family time but, at the end of the day, your reward might be qualifying for the World Cup.
“So you’ve got to put that in. My family all know exactly what they’ve bought into, really. It is what it is. We’ve got massive games coming up.”
Hibs know that if they can see off Santa Coloma they are likely to face Croatians Rijeka, conquerors of Aberdeen just two years ago, in the third qualifying round. With a further step up in quality likely in the play-offs, the group stage is an ambitious target.
So many Scottish clubs have fallen in ignominious fashion in recent times that it would not be a surprise should Hibs’ campaign be a short-lived one. However, Boyle believes they are well prepared and the extra boost of manager Jack Ross inking a new contract on Tuesday will not have done any harm.
“It’s brilliant that he’s committed his future, which is personally brilliant for me,” said Boyle. “I feel that we have a brilliant relationship and he’s been fantastic for me.
“When I look at the numbers [15 goals and 12 assists] from last season, he’s given me the freedom to play, which is all that any player can ask for.
“He has a great staff and he’s just added David Gray to that staff as well, which will be an even bigger boost for him. He’s a great man manager and from the first day that he came in all of the players have bought into what he wants.”