Martin Boyle is sitting in Hibernian's team hotel in the Netherlands, not long after notching an assist for Josh Campbell in the 1-0 friendly victory over MSV Duisburg. He is relaxed, if a little bruised after enduring some rough treatment from the German defenders unable to cope with his pace and trickery, and tired as a result of David Gray's triple sessions during this summer training camp. 

But he's also keen to explain just how much Hibs means to him, after a few weeks of speculation stemming from an innocent reply to a question about playing in the A-League. He has reassured fans by confirming he's going nowhere, but wants to go one better, by explaining why he has so much love for the club. 

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Talking about 'living and breathing' Hibs is exactly the sort of thing that will go down well with a fanbase eager to exorcise the ghosts of last season and go into the new campaign with a sense of optimism and excitement, but also a fanbase who feared losing one of the team's longest-serving players and a veritable talisman to boot.

After a disrupted pre-season this time last year due to injury, Boyle has been relishing the chance to be fully involved in every session - even if it has been a slog.

“It’s still early doors, so we’re getting the running in, mixing and matching things in games. The gaffer has already said that we’ll sit down when this pre-season trip is over, to discuss our expectations for the season. So we’ll have that meeting when we’re back.

“The most important thing is we’ve got a couple of players coming in, we’ve got players returning, and these pre-season trips are great for bonding. This is a time to make your mark with the manager. It’s full-on because everyone knows he’ll be making decisions.

“But we have to enjoy the hard work and get through it. No one enjoys pre-season, but these trips away are precious. Even though we do see each other a lot during the season, in terms of bonding and generating spirit, bedding in the new players, it’s important.”

Hibs clearly means a lot to Boyle. His wife Rachael plays for the women's team, and daughters Amelia and Sophia are no strangers to Easter Road or the training centre. The response to his return from Saudi Arabia was the type of reaction normally reserved for celebrities. But his face clouds over as he talks about last season and states that the team didn't reach the heights it should have.

“This is near enough my tenth season, if you take away that six-month stint when I was away [in Saudi Arabia]. The fans here took to me, and I think they know that I give 100 per cent every time I’m on the pitch," he says. 

“I know last season my performances weren’t acceptable. And I can take criticism. I’m a big boy now. The fans pay their hard-earned money to come and watch. We know we didn't ever hit the levels we’re capable of. It’s as simple as that.

“Personally, I’ve got a lot more to give. I feel like I’m bigger and stronger now. I feel like this leadership role will give me a lot more confidence going forward, knowing the manager has that belief in me. I definitely have belief in the manager and all the other backroom staff the club have brought in. That can only be a good thing."

Boyle's leadership role will be important for a dressing room missing Paul Hanlon and / or Lewis Stevenson for the first time since the mid-2000s. Having played with him and coached him, Gray feels now is the ideal time for Boyle to be granted a few more responsibilities. 

“I think he’s got that trust in me, that belief that I can go on and have that leadership role. I believe I can do that. I think I know this club inside out. I’m probably not the most vocal but my performances on the pitch and standards in training can probably be where my leadership comes through," Boyle says thoughtfully. 

“It’s only been since Dave came in. We've lost two senior players in Paul and Lewis, and I’m now the longest-serving player here. I know the expectation levels. I understand how big a club we are and what the fans expect. I know everything about the place. The new players coming in, as well as the returning players who were never really given a chance, I can give them advice.

“There is no better feeling than winning games as a Hibernian player, when we’ve got that full support behind us. If I can embed that in the squad, and instil what it means to play for a club of this stature, I feel that will go a long way.

“We’re all representing the shirt, and we all believe in what we’re doing.  Hopefully, I can step into this role he’s given me, and not let him down."