Ryan Porteous insists Hibs will be doing all they can to ensure Celtic don’t get to enjoy a title party at Easter Road this weekend.
Brendan Rodgers’ side can secure their seventh consecutive Premiership crown if they defeat Neil Lennon’s team at lunchtime on Saturday. Porteous, a boyhood Hibs supporter, recalls seeing Rangers win the title in Leith in 2010. Five years prior to that, and slightly before the teenage defender’s time watching the Hibees, Easter Road also played host to the ‘Helicopter Sunday’ celebrations after the Ibrox side pipped Celtic on a dramatic final day.
It is likely to be another watching brief for Porteous this weekend, this time from the subs’ bench, but that won’t diminish the 19-year-old centre-back’s desire to see Celtic party put on hold.
“I’ve seen teams win the league at Hibs before and it’s never fun,” he said. “I was here when Rangers won the league in the past so we’ll be setting out to win the game and hopefully make sure that doesn’t happen.
“I think it will be a good game and we’re well aware that if we can get the result then we stop them from winning the league on our patch. It’s not as if you need any extra motivation when Celtic come to town, but you can’t pretend that doesn’t add a little bit of spice to it. It should be a good occasion.
“It doesn’t matter who we are playing – Rangers, Aberdeen, Celtic – and whether or not they can win the league, we will always set out to win the game.”
Manager Neil Lennon is no stranger to title parties involving Saturday’s opponents, having helped Celtic to glory both as a player and manager. The competitor in him, however, will be desperate to prevent his former club from doing so on his home turf, according to Porteous.
Speaking before helping Hibs Under-20s clinch the SPFL Development title, Porteous said: “The manager will definitely be up for it – but that’s the same for every game. He’s always said to us that we tend to perform well in the bigger games. It’s the so-called smaller games that can be an issue at times, but they are all big games now – it’s five cup finals – so hopefully that suits us.”
Hibs, of course, have more pressing reasons than simply ruining Celtic’s day to require a positive result. The Hibees are in the thick of the battle for a European place with Aberdeen, Rangers and Kilmarnock. Finishing second or third would guarantee them a crack at the Europa League, while fourth place – their current position – will only be enough if Celtic defeat Motherwell in next month’s Scottish Cup final.
Representing his boyhood club on the continent would be a major milestone for Porteous, who has mixed memories of European nights at Easter Road. “My favourite European memory? Not Malmo, that’s for sure!” he laughed, remembering the 9-0 aggregate loss to the Swedes five years ago. “No, you only need to look back to last season when we played Brondby and we showed that we can compete at that sort of level. This is a different club these days. We want to win trophies, we want to be in Europe and I believe we have the players and staff to do ourselves justice on that stage.
“It would be an absolute dream to go away and be a part of that with Hibs. It’s still not done and dusted – Kilmarnock are on our heels and absolutely flying, and we have some tough games to play but, if we keep focusing on the next game to come and perform to the best of our ability, then we should get there.”