Hibs defender Ryan Porteous on why international football is developing his game

Hibs defender Ryan Porteous feels Scotland Under-21 games are enhancing his development as he strives to one day earn promotion to Steve Clarke’s senior squad.
Hibs' Ryan Portoeus is likely to start for Scotland Under-21s tonight at Tynecaslte. Pic: SNSHibs' Ryan Portoeus is likely to start for Scotland Under-21s tonight at Tynecaslte. Pic: SNS
Hibs' Ryan Portoeus is likely to start for Scotland Under-21s tonight at Tynecaslte. Pic: SNS

Porteous is preparing for tonight’s European Under-21 Championship qualifier against Lithuania at Tynecastle Park, with a trip to Czech Republic to follow on Monday.

He has started four of Hibs’ last five games – scoring against Aberdeen last weekend – and is learning quickly at club level. He explained why international football is also making him a better player as he works towards the long-term target of a senior call-up.

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“It’s a different style of game. There is different refereeing you have to put up with and foreign players, so you get that side to it,” said the centre-back, who has nine Under-21 caps.

“Being with a group of players who you don’t play with every week definitely adds to your game. You need to be more vocal and communicate a bit more because you aren’t used to them.

“We all know each other in the Under-21 squad so that helps. Having two games in a week for my fitness levels and match sharpness will be good because I was out for so long. It definitely makes you a better player. You are playing more games at a higher level so it’s obviously going to improve you. There are good coaches and good players to play beside.”

Asked about his desire to win full international caps, the 20-year-old replied: “Obviously that’s the long-term goal but you look at the players who are out injured at the moment and will be coming back, so I’m not too concerned with that right now.

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“You never know what will happen in the future and that’s obviously my long-term goal, but now the main focus is trying to get that match sharpness back, trying to get fully fit and do a job for the Under 21s.”

After missing the second half of last season due to knee surgery, Porteous explained that he has still to reach peak sharpness. “I think I’m 100 per cent match fit, I just need to get that sharpness. It’s just sometimes, when the ball gets whipped into the box, I need the sharpness. As a defender, that’s the main thing. I don’t think I’m far away, I just need some more games.

“It’s brilliant being back. My main target was to get back playing for Hibs week in, week out, and be fit for them. Anything on top of that would become a bonus. Fortunately, I have been called up for the last two group games and we’ll be looking for two positive results again.”

Scotland Under-21s sit joint top of Group 4 with Greece having beaten San Marino at home and Croatia away in their opening two qualifiers last month. Porteous cautioned against looking too far ahead towards the 2021 finals in Hungary and Slovenia.

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“It would be great but, no matter how well we have started the campaign, we don’t have any right to start talking about qualification right now,” he said. “We can maybe start talking about that if we’re still sitting in this position going into the final two games. Until then, we don’t have the right to speak about it so we’ll just take it game by game.

“We’re looking good but we know how quickly things can change in tournament football. So we’ll be well prepared for Lithuania, it will be a really tough game. We have watched them and they look a really athletic, energetic team, so we know what to expect.

“The one thing Scot wants us to do is take every single game seriously, no matter if they are friendlies or a chance to qualify. We need to take it seriously and give it 100 per cent. We have been together for the last three or four years so everyone knows each other really well and it helps.

“We know we’re a good bunch of players and we know the continuity in the camp is really good so we are a confident bunch, but as I said we need to take it game by game. The one thing Scot and Malky [Mackay, SFA performance director] wanted was for the 21s to all be playing week in and week out at first-team level. That definitely helps because I don’t think there are many who are not, and even then they’re playing for good 23s teams. So it’s a good, confident group.”