Hibs' Ryan Porteous recalls previous battle with Erling Haaland
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Yet Molde starlet Erling Braut Haaland remains a largely unknown quantity to Scottish audiences.
Ryan Porteous, however, knows exactly what to expect from one of the hottest prospects in European football.
The Hibs defender has crossed swords with Haaland previously when he captained Scotland’s under-19 side against their Norway counterparts in March, with the Tartan teens tormented by the powerhouse front-man.
The 6ft 3in youngster scored a hat-trick in a breathless 5-4 win for Norway as Donald Park’s Scots crashed out of the European Championships elite round.
While a host of suitors have sought his signature following nine goals in 15 outings this term, Haaland is expected to officially join Salzburg – backed by the riches of Red Bull’s sports arm – this week in a switch that could be worth £10million over time.
That tops John Carew’s previous record transfer of £7.5m to Valencia from Rosenborg in 2000. However, Haaland is set to be loaned back to Molde for the remainder of the Norwegian season, meaning that, after missing the first leg in Leith due to transfer talks in Austria, he can lead the line at the Aker Stadion tomorrow evening.
“Haaland is obviously a really good player but, in fairness, that was a crazy game,” recalled Porteous. “He’s a big, strong, physical guy who is quick and powerful. He’s decent in the air and really has got all the attributes that a striker needs.
“I didn’t know much about him before the game – it was only after it I saw the links with Manchester United and teams like that. It was a good experience playing against players of that quality.
“We were in a group with Holland and Germany and, although the Germans and Dutch were good, Haaland was probably the best striker in that group. He gets in loads of good positions. Sometimes he squanders them, but he gets there in the first place, so we have to try and snuff that out.
“I prefer to play against a bigger, stronger striker than against a small, sharp one so it’s a task we will relish and look forward to – and hopefully we can get the win.
“A couple of the boys like Paul [Hanlon] have asked me what he’s like and I’ve tried to describe what he has. He’s got a big of everything so we have to be at our best.”
With Darren McGregor still toiling due to an ongoing knee injury, Porteous is set to retain his place in the heart of the Hibs defence, where he has not looked out of place in the slightest.
He turned in a solid display and was unfazed by taking centre-stage on an electric night at Easter Road when Molde came to town last week.
Porteous, who was in the crowd as a fan when Malmo defeated his boyhood heroes 7-0 in 2013, readily admits he is living the dream – and that horrible night against the Swedes seems like a distant memory.
“You always get nerves and butterflies in your stomach,” continued Porteous. “But you’ve got to relish those environments.
“I just wanted to be ready for whenever the gaffer needed me. Then when Darren McGregor picked up a wee knock that gave me the opportunity to repay the faith the gaffer has in young boys like myself and Oli [Shaw].
“It’s a dream come true to play in them and you have to thrive.
“I still remember being in the crowd for the Malmo game – that was the one I remember most – and we’re in such a better place now. We’ve come on leaps and bound since then. The gaffer has brought in a winning mentality and that’s a massive factor.
“You go into every game expecting to win, you trust the team to go out and get a result.”
Porteous puts much of his seamless transition to first-team regular down to the experienced professionals flanking him.
The influence of Paul Hanlon, at the tail end of his testimonial year and playing some of the finest football of his career, is plain to see. However, it is Efe Ambrose that Porteous singles out for particular praise.
So often merely seen as an affable character, massive personality and someone, on occasion, prone to a high-profile error, Ambrose’s young defensive colleague is keen to underline his bravery and quality on the ball.
“I’ve loved playing beside Paul and Efe, they do a lot of the work for you and help you out a lot,” continued the Dalkeith-born defender.
“Efe is a great player, brilliant for us. He gets stick sometimes because he has a reputation of giving it away, but his mentality is so strong that even in high-pressure games he’ll still take the ball and look to do his job.
“In situations where I’d be struggling, I give it to Efe with a man on him and know he’d try his hardest to try and get out of it. He gets us out of sticky situations. He’s a great character and he helps me a lot.”