Hibs analysis: Can Ryan Porteous cement his legacy by finally winning an Edinburgh derby?
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Speculation is mounting about his immediate future with Udinese said to be trying to push through a deal this month amid competition from the English Championship. Hibs chief executive Ben Kensell even admitted it was “likely” he would leave before his contract expires in the summer as they seek to find a deal which benefits both player and club.
If that’s the case then Sunday’s match against Hearts could easily be his last in green-and-white and potentially his final Edinburgh derby.
The 2022/23 season hasn’t been the best for the 23-year-old. Uncertainty surrounding his future seems to have affected his performance, as has playing in a dysfunctional side which has struggled badly for consistent form. There have also been multiple changes to the defensive personnel and shape, while he's even spent time in midfield, like the opening exchanges in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Dundee United.
Yet we still saw in Scotland’s 0-0 draw with Ukraine what he’s capable of when playing at his best, and matches like the one at Easter Road this weekend are typically the occasions where Porteous rises to the fore. He's admitted himself he relishes the big games because they demand his constant concentration, which helps eradicate the little blips which can often undermine against run-of-the-mill competition.
Sunday is both a big match and a contest where he’ll have to be very wary of the threat posed by the opposition. The Hearts attack has been lethal recently, none more so than in the 5-0 victory over Aberdeen in midweek where the Gorgie Road side were ruthless. Josh Ginnelly going up top has given them an extra dimension while Lawrence Shankland can break the 20-goal mark before we’ve even entered February.
Porteous has always been a fan favourite in Leith. Natural excitement at a talented academy graduate coming through was bolstered by his status as a boyhood supporter. The relationship between supporters and player was strengthened when it became apparent his playing style was as aggressive as they come – always a bonus in Scottish football – and was cemented when his reckless streak earned him a scathing reputation in some quarters.
Yet for all of that, Porteous, like many Hibs heroes before him, doesn’t have a strong record in Edinburgh derbies. In fact, he’s yet to win one. He was an unused sub in the two home victories in 2017/18. He missed the 2-1 win at Tynecastle in 2019 through injury and was absent again later in the year when Martin Boyle’s double sank Daniel Stendel’s side. That was the last Hibs won in the fixture.
Aside from being out-muscled by Uche Ikpeazu for Hearts' equaliser in the 2-1 loss at Easter Road in September 2019 there isn't a lot you can pin on him. He’s often been let down by those around him, which could easily occur on Sunday even if he puts in an outstanding showing.
But if Porteous can be at the top of his game at one end and Kevin Nisbet can continue his hot streak at the other then Hibs have more than a puncher's chance, which would help cement the player’s legacy as starts the next chapter in his career.