Dubai: Scotsman-turned-Socceroo Martin Boyle has taken aim at "loud mouth" pundit Chris Sutton, saying his derogatory comments about the Asian Cup were rooted in ignorance and were a deliberate attempt to be provocative.
Sutton, a former striker for Celtic and a one-cap international for England, was largely unknown in Australia but has now become a public enemy of sorts after wading into the club-versus-country controversy surrounding Tom Rogic.
With Rogic unable to play in the recent Old Firm derby due to being called into Australia's pre-tournament training camp in Dubai, Sutton called the Asian Cup "Mickey Mouse football" while working for BT Sport and said the Socceroos wouldn't need him to beat Jordan in their opening match on January 6.
Sutton also told Australia to "stick to your prawns and BBQs," and has kept up the attack in recent days with a series of snide, sarcastic tweets after Rogic was rested from Sunday's 5-0 friendly win over Oman – which, it later emerged, came at the request of Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers.
Boyle, who stepped foot on Australian soil for the first time in November as he made his international debut for his adopted country, has been a bemused observer of the crossfire.
As the 25-year-old from Aberdeen slowly gets his own head wrapped around Asian football, he said it was clear Sutton had no understanding about the significance of the tournament and probably no interest in gaining any.
"I don't think he knows much about it if I'm honest with you," Boyle said. "It's a bit disappointing the comments. Everyone's got their opinion and stuff, but you know some people don't accept what he says.
"He can be a bit of a loud mouth him, but he's always been that kind of character. He's paid to do a job and he's on the show to be quite controversial. He's made a bit of a publicity stunt out of it, but he's always been like that. But some people don't know how to take it sometimes and it can stir up quite a bit.
"He's a legend in Scotland, what he done with Celtic and he's a big icon in terms of that. But sometimes some people can say silly stuff."
Boyle had his own issues with his club Hibernian, with manager Neil Lennon accusing Socceroos coach Graham Arnold of "moving the goalposts" by taking him, captain Mark Milligan and Jamie Maclaren away straight after Boxing Day, which meant they would miss the Edinburgh derby.
Boyle said he never had the chance to sit down and talk with Lennon about it, but could fully appreciate Arnold's stance.
"The Asian Cup was coming round, sacrifices had to be made," he said. "Obviously we would have liked to have been there playing club football, but the other guys in the team would have had games as well.
"This is a date that was set and you've just got to be here and honour that. Hopefully your club can get the results while you're gone … we've got a job to be here, and hopefully it's rewarded."
Vince is a sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.
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