For Martin Boyle it all started as a joke on a bitter Scottish winter in Edinburgh back in January 2018.
The seed of the 25-year-old’s Socceroos career was sown there and then during a training session shortly after Jamie Maclaren had joined Hibernian on loan.
A native of Aberdeen, some 10,500 miles from Sydney, along with Harry Souttar and Jason Cummings, Boyle is one of three Scottish-born players who could represent the Socceroos in Qatar.
Martin Boyle is one of the three Scottish-born players along with Jason Cummings and Harry Souttar who could represent the Socceroos at the World Cup in Qatar
‘I think it just started as a joke,’ he told the FFA podcast in 2020. ‘We were at a winter camp in January when Jamie first joined, and someone mentioned that my Dad was born in Australia.’
When former Socceroos captain Mark Milligan joined Hibs the following summer, he too was made aware that Boyle would be eligible to represent Australia through his father.
Through Milligan and current Celtic boss Ange Postecoglou, the news reached Graham Arnold, who sat down with Boyle in September 2018.
The Hibs forward joined the Socceroos camp in Dubai and was named in the squad for a friendly against Kuwait the following month, but his debut was delayed as he did not receive his Australian passport in time.
Graham Arnold (right) offered Boyle the chance to represent Australia back in 2018
Boyle repaid the faith, scoring twice on his first start in a 3-0 win over Lebanon
Boyle has been in great scoring form for Hibs, netting four times in eight league games
A month later, however, Boyle made his debut in Brisbane against South Korea. Aptly, he came on to replace Maclaren.
Three days later, he marked his first start by scoring twice in a 3-0 win against Lebanon in Sydney, his father’s birthplace.
‘I hadn’t ever been to Australia before I played for them. I think it was a bit strange at first as I don’t think many of the guys had seen me play so it did feel a bit like a trial,’ he said at the time.
‘But the manager put a lot of trust in me and it was amazing to make such an impact on my debut.’
Cummings (left) forced his way in Arnold’s plans after a blistering start to his A-League career
Cummings made his debut for Scotland against the Netherlands in November 2017
He won two caps for Scotland, but was allowed to switch allegiances to Australia as both appearances came in friendlies rather than official competitions
Boyle has since scored five goals in 18 caps for the Socceroos and will be desperate to impress in Qatar after a knee injury deprived him of the chance to play in the Asian Cup in 2019.
And the winger should head to Qatar full of confidence after netting four times in seven league games for Hibs so far this season.
Remarkably, Boyle isn’t the only forward with Hibs connections who could line-up for Australia next month.
Jason Cummings scored 71 goals in 149 games in all competitions in four seasons with The Hibees, before leaving his hometown club for Nottingham Forest in the summer of 2017.
The 27-year-old striker made his Socceroos debut against New Zealand last month
And he marked his first cap in style, scoring a penalty after coming on as a substitute
The 27-year-old won the first of his two Scotland caps just months later, before a journeyman career took him to Rangers, Peterborough, Luton, Shrewsbury Town and Dundee.
In January, Cummings swapped Scotland for Australia, the birthplace of his mother, as he signed for Central Coast.
THE SCOTTISH SOCCEROOS
- Age: 29
- Debut: Australia vs South Korea – November 2018
- Caps: 18 Goals: 5
- Age: 23
- Debut: Australia vs Nepal – October 2019
- Caps: 10 Goals: 6
- Age: 27
- Debut: New Zealand vs Australia – September 2022
- Caps: 1 Goals: 1
He hit the ground running, scoring 10 goals in his first 21 for the Mariners to force his way into the Arnold’s plans.
Like Boyle, Cummings, whose brother lives in Perth, has fully embraced the green and gold and not just because Scotland have made the World Cup just once in his lifetime – in 1998, when they were knocked out in the group stage.
‘Scotland never qualify for World Cups. I always had in the back of my head, coming to Australia and playing for the national team,’ he told the Sydney Morning Herald in September.
‘I love Australia. It’s an honour to be here.’
Souttar, who represented Scotland at Under-17 and Under-19 level, is similarly enthusiastic about playing for the Socceroos.
‘I have had an unbelievable two years with Australia,’ he told The Guardian back in February.
‘It is such a great group, one big family. I am always so excited to see everyone.’
The left-back was born and bred in Aberdeen, but qualifies to play for Australia via his mother and won his first cap in 2019, just over a year after his elder brother John made his Scotland debut.
Like his sibling, Harry made his debut for Dundee United but played only two games for the Tangerines before moving to Stoke City still a month short of his 18th birthday.
Harry Souttar (middle) has developed into a lynchpin of Australia’s back four under Arnold
Souttar moved to Stoke City in 2016 but only became a regular for the Potters last season
The 23-year-old represented Scotland at Under-17 and Under-19 level
Impressive loan spells to Ross County and Fleetwood Town were enough to convince Arnold to offer Souttar the chance to represent Australia, which he seized emphatically.
Defensively solid and versatile, Souttar has also provided the Socceroos with a huge threat at set pieces, scoring six goals in his first 10 games.
The 23-year-old, however, missed the play-off triumph against Peru as he was recovering from an ACL injury sustained in the qualifier against Saudi Arabia in November.
Instead of celebrating his 10th cap for the Socceroos, Souttar had to come to terms with a season-ending injury. In his brother John, however, the centre-back had the ideal source of encouragement and perspective.
Souttar faces a race against the clock to be fit in time for the World Cup after rupturing his ACL during a qualifier against Saudi Arabia in November last year
The Rangers defender has suffered three Achilles injuries, which threatened to end his career prematurely and the way he dealt with his ordeal clearly left a mark on his younger brother.
‘I can’t go back and change it [the injury],’ the Socceroos star said.
‘Yes, I was disappointed but I had to crack on.’
Souttar is still recovering from his injury and faces a race against the clock to be available in time for the World Cup, with Arnold set to give him all the time he needs to prove his fitness.