Socceroo addresses injury concerns after sitting out World Cup qualifying opener

Craig Goodwin | Press Conference | Socceroos v Palestine

Socceroos winger Martin Boyle has played down concerns over the knee that forced him out of last year’s FIFA Men’s World Cup and declared himself fit to play 90 minutes against Palestine in the AFC qualifier early on Wednesday morning (AEDT).

Boyle missed last week’s 7-0 hammering of Bangladesh in Melbourne after suffering swelling on the knee that was operated on in Qatar last December, and flew directly to Kuwait where Australia’s second game of this international window will be played.

Now Boyle, as he praised the impact of former Central Coast Mariners boss Nick Montgomery at his Scottish club side Hibernian, insisted his “precautionary” resting at Hibs – and avoiding a long-haul flight to Australia and back – had allowed him to be fully fit for international duty this week.

The 30-year-old admitted to pangs of concern when his knee initially locked up after the Scottish Cup semi-final defeat to Aberdeen on November 4 – little more than two months before January’s Asian Cup.

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Last-minute injuries have ruled him out of both the 2022 World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup, leaving him to hope for “third time lucky” at a major tournament – but he was also adamant that his current knee issue is only a temporary concern.

“It feels good (after) I had a couple of days off it just to recover and get a little bit of swelling down, I played the last game for my club and felt good so I’m raring to go,” he said.

“(Missing the Bangladesh game) was maybe the most frustrating bit, but obviously you’ve got to take the medical advice on these things.

“They made a plan that was best suited for me and I accepted that; thankfully I’ve managed to travel to this game.

“I was a little bit concerned (about the swelling) but as soon as I got into the dressing room the physio said it was normal and I knew it wasn’t in the specific area of where my injury was.

“The medical team can get a bit worrying and precautious in the moment which is why I had rescans on my knee.

“There’s been a little bit of protecting me a little bit because I’ve played a lot of minutes since my surgery, but I just want to keep going.”

If fit, Boyle is a certain inclusion in Graham Arnold’s Asian Cup squad, and the memory of missing the last iteration in 2019, as well as last year’s World Cup is a powerful motivator.

A desperate battle to be fit ended in surgery that revealed a far more serious injury than first thought, though Boyle stayed with the Australian squad in Qatar as Arnold’s “chief vibes officer”.

“Thanks for the reminder of that,” he laughed. “Obviously I’ve not had much luck with tournaments, (the last one) was a nightmare for me – so hopefully it’s third time lucky for a major tournament.

Martin Boyle after having surgery at the World Cup in Qatar.

“But it’s a massive honour for me just to be selected in these kind of games. I’m not getting any younger, I’m aware of this, but hopefully with the injury setbacks that I’ve had, I can prolong my career a couple more years longer and hopefully we can get to that (next) World Cup.

“I’m still as hungry as ever. I want to win games, I want to create chances for my teammates and I want to score goals.”

Key to that will be his club form for Hibs under Montgomery, who sensationally won the A-League Men title last season with the Mariners before being headhunted to lead the Edinburgh club.

“It’s been really good though the training sessions are long, I think he’s still thinks he’s on the Central Coast with the weather,” Boyle said. “He’s taking us for a couple of hour sessions on the pitch and its blowing a gale while we’re training but he’s not sitting back on that.

“But the style we’re playing at the moment is really enjoyable. We’re playing out from the back and creating a lot of chances.

“If we could be a bit more ruthless at the other end, then we’d be much better off on the table, we have a real good squad.”