Gary Jardine has revealed how watching Hibs teenager Ryan Porteous put former Liverpool striker Florent Sinama Pongolle up in the air led to him joining Edinburgh City.
Jardine, below, made note of that moment as he watched the Easter Road outfit’s development side face Dundee United towards the end of last season and when Porteous’ name came up as he looked to build his squad for City’s move into League Two he jumped at the chance to take him on loan.
It was, he admitted, a bit of a gamble, Porteous only 17 at the time and untested against the vastly experienced strikers he would come up against in the coming months.
But today Jardine’s judgment has proved to be totally vindicated, the Hibs youngster having played his part in City retaining their place in League Two, having earned their right to step up from the Lowland League with a play-off final triumph over East Stirling.
He recalled: “I’d approached Hibs to ask who they might have available and Ryan’s name came up. I remembered watching him come on in the last 20 minutes for Hibs against Dundee United’s youth team and putting Sinama Pongolle up in the air.
“I took a chance on him but you have to trust your own judgment and I thought him playing alongside Joe Mbu would work well, and Ryan has gone from strength to strength. He’s done very well, he’s much more confident and he talks non-stop now. He’s improved beyond my expectations, to be honest.”
Porteous’ temperament was clear to see when, only shortly before joining City, he faced them in a pre-season friendly at Meadowbank, a game Neil Lennon’s side won 6-1.
Jardine said: “It was the week before Hibs were due to face Brondby in the Europa League and had a strong side out that night.
“They gave us a bit of a doing, Ryan came on and made a mistake which led to our goal and you could see he was annoyed with himself. But he didn’t let it get to him which is pretty unique for someone of his age.
“We saw it again later in the season in a Scottish Cup game when he was booked after only four minutes. I was worried that I might have to take him off but that was him, he managed the game properly which is something you’d expect from an experienced player rather than someone of his age.”
Having made the step up, City initially struggled for results but it was Porteous who gave them their first league win, scoring the only goal of the game against Annan Athletic.
Jardine said: “We didn’t play badly, we made a few sloppy mistakes in the first few months but the fact we hadn’t been beaten too often in the previous two seasons meant the heads didn’t drop.
“We were more frustrated and annoyed than down.
“Ryan’s goal against Annan was important, but he probably more important was the goal he scored up at Arbroath which made us safe, a relief for all.”
As much as Porteous caught the eye, Jardine admitted what had impressed him most about the boy from Dalkeith was his seemingly insatiable appetite for football, the young defender balancing life in League Two with playing for the Hibs development squad – which was top of their league for much of the season – and also playing for Scotland’s Under-19s.
He said: “It was only the other day Ryan was telling me he’d played more than 70 games this season.
“There was the day he arrived back in Edinburgh at lunch-time from having played for Scotland in the European Championships in the Czech Republic and went straight to Oriam to play for Hibs.
“Then he was annoyed at me for not playing him against Spartans at Ainslie Park that night in the East of Scotland Cup. He wanted to play but it would have been crazy and I’m sure Eddie May [Hibs academy coaching manager] would have bitten my head off if I had.”
If playing against the grizzled pros of League Two has brought Porteous on, Jardine also believes training alongside former Scotland international striker Craig Beattie played a part in his development.
He said: “Ryan acquitted himself well in games, and has gone from strength to strength. You make mistakes, but it’s how you work to eradicate those errors and that’s been the thing that’s been really good.
“But also training and going up against someone like Craig who has vast experience of playing at the top level will have done him the world of good.
“I think playing with Hibs Under-20s where he gets more of the ball gives him the chance to work on technique whereas League Two has been a learning curve in going against guys who have been there and done it.
“Ryan is very aggressive and driven but composed on the ball. His decision making is also good. That’s one of the biggest things in football and nine times out of ten he’s made the right decision. He has good leadership qualities, he talks a lot for a lad of his age. Hibs have shown faith in giving him a good contract and with a good pre-season, who knows, he could force his way into Neil’s first team plans.”