BY ALAN TEMPLE – @CCP_Sport
ALEX McLEISH is ready to snatch Martin Boyle from under the noses of Australia as the tug-of-war for the in-form winger hots up.
Hibs boss Neil Lennon last night revealed that the Scotland manager intends to speak to Boyle regarding his international future following a string of fine displays for the capital club.
That twist came mere hours after Socceroos coach Graham Arnold – who visited the Hibees’ training base earlier this month – signaled his intent to name the 25-year-old in his squad to face Kuwait on October 15.
“He’s a player, from what I saw, that we don’t have too many of. He’s another [Daniel] Arzani type. We’re just waiting on the paperwork now.”
However, Lennon reckons it is far from a foregone conclusion that Boyle will opt for the Aussies.
McLeish will name his squad for next month’s UEFA Nations League Group C1 encounter against Israel and subsequent friendly against Portugal on Monday.
The Easter Road boss confirmed: “There is interest from Scotland as well. It is great recognition for him and Martin might have a decision to make.
“I’ve spoken to Alex [McLeish] and he was due to speak to Martin when I last checked. I left it to them. I spoke to Martin briefly about it on Thursday and said night ‘you may get call from Alex McLeish . . . so be ready if you want to speak to him’.
“I’ve left it up to those two. Graham [Arnold] has come out publicly and he’s obviously very pleased with what he’s seen. It’s a hypothetical decision at the moment – but it would be down to the player’s preference.”
Boyle, who has notched five assists and two goals from his 13 outings this term, did himself no harm in Tuesday’s Betfred Cup quarter-final against Aberdeen, tormenting the Dons back-line, creating a host of chances and seeing two goals disallowed.
Despite Hibs ultimately paying for their profligacy by crashing out on penalties following a goalless 120 minutes, Boyle’s display is likely to have taken him a step closer to completing a remarkable rise from Montrose to senior international recognition in the space of six years.
“He was outstanding in midweek. He has been outstanding for two years – I see it every week,” continued Lennon. “I see him doing something special almost every week – then I see him do something stupid more or less every week as well.
“But if he was the complete player he would be playing at a far higher level than where he is at the minute. The improvement is enormous and that’s down to the individual. His physicality, strength and mental toughness has got better. His athleticism and fitness levels are unbelievably high.
“Is he ready to be called up? That’s for others to decide. But he certainly has the attributes to play international football.”
Boyle was sent for a scan on a troublesome ankle complaint yesterday but is still expected to be fit to face St Mirren in Paisley this afternoon – as Neil Lennon crosses swords with the man who he sought to help land the Buddies job.
Lenny was on the end of the phone when Oran Kearney needed advice after applying for the Saints role in the summer but, despite his compatriot impressing during the interview process, they gave the gig to Alan Stubbs.
However, the ex-Hibs boss lasted just 77 days in the role before St Mirren axed him and turned to the successful Coleraine coach.
Lennon added: “Although I don’t know Oran too well, I spoke to him a little. He asked for some advice before applying for the St Mirren job, which obviously worked a treat because he didn’t get it!
“I’m pleased that he got it eventually. He did an excellent job at Coleraine and got a great start here against Celtic. Obviously, they had an adverse result last week [3-0 defeat at Hamilton] but I think, at home, he’ll be determined to get a positive result.
“They have changed their manager so it’s a new set of ideas in there, they have had some new players come in, some on trial, so they are a bit of an unknown quantity.”