Hibs' Ryan Porteous can be top international defender says Shaun Maloney as he admits disappointment at appeal outcome

Hibs boss Shaun Maloney has spoken about the Scottish FA’s decision to reject the club’s appeal against the red card shown to Ryan Porteous in the 3-1 defeat by Aberdeen, calling the decision to add an additional one-game suspension to the existing ban ‘disappointing’.

Saturday, 2nd April 2022, 7:00 am

The centre-back will miss the Scottish Premiership games against Dundee United on Saturday April 2 and Hearts on April 9, plus the first two post-split games.

He will, however, be available for the Scottish Cup semi-final against Hearts.

This is the first chance Maloney has had to address the appeal and subsequent dismissal, given the international break that followed the Pittodrie clash.

Shaun Maloney has issued a staunch defence of Ryan Porteous - and backed him to get even better

The Easter Road boss is of the opinion that, if Porteous continues his trajectory and focuses on the elements of his game needing improvement, he will be a regular feature in the dark blue of Scotland in future international breaks.

“You’re always aware it might not get overturned but to add the extra game was really disappointing,” Maloney said of the appeal.

“It’s happened so we just have to move on. We got an explanation as a club – it was standard wording as to how they saw the appeal.

"We saw it differently but they make the decisions and we just have to live with it.”

Maloney has been effusive in his praise for the 23-year-old and insisted that while he had no argument with the awarding of a spot-kick for the defender’s foul on Aberdeen defender Ross McCrorie, he was of the opinion that Porteous had tried to play the ball.

"From Ryan’s point of view, at times in games his levels have been really high. He just needs to keep that emotional level as neutral as possible,” Maloney continued.

“When we played Hearts at Easter Road he produced a centre-back performance as good as anything in the league. But within that game – the biggest game for this club – his emotional level stayed the same.

“That’s something we need to work on together. If I have him available for every game then it does have a big impact on performances and results.

“He is receptive to that. Ryan is an intelligent guy. People might have perceptions of him, but my perception is that he’s intelligent and really open to learning different things."

Porteous still has another 12 months and a bit to run on his existing contract and Maloney believes the former Scotland Under-21 can only get better if he remains in the Capital.

“I believe if he stays with us next season and beyond then he will improve. He already has in the three months we have been here.

“He has a good work-rate. Physically, he can improve, and if he does all these things then I believe he can be a top international defender. It’s up to me to help him get there.”

Whether on social media or at matches, Porteous is often afforded special treatment from opposition fans before he has kicked a ball. There is an impression that he is a rash defender, charged by emotion rather than talent. A dirty player, if you will.

Maloney is eager for that view to be altered.

“I think there is a perception of him, but I think some of that is from before I came here, and that’s part and parcel of being a professional footballer,” the Hibs boss continued.

“His performances when he gets back from this suspension and next season will dictate that perception. That, and his behaviour off the pitch.

“If he does all that I believe we will see a really top defender. I have to support him, but at the same time we have things to improve on.”

Does Maloney feel that Porteous suffered a harsher punishment in the wake of the club’s appeal because of that perception?

“It’s impossible to answer that. I hope not. From working with him he is a really intelligent guy. He is always asking questions about how we are playing. My perception of him is good.”

A boyhood Hibs fan, it is perhaps overly simplistic to suggest that the nature of his performances stems from his allegiances. After all, plenty of other Hibs players over the years who support the team have not been subjected to the same scrutiny of performance, or perception from the terraces and neither have they played with the same 110 per cent, heart on sleeve approach that Porteous takes.

It is entirely possible that that side of the player fuels his top-level performances, and taking away that emotion could stunt his growth and reduce his impact.

Maloney agrees to a certain extent but believes consistency is key.

“There are certain moments as a centre back – or for all players, really – that there has to be a consistent level.

"I’m not saying don’t be competitive or show that to your support – Aberdeen was a big game for us – but we need to show a different type of performance.

"We have to trust what we are trying to do, even if we go 1-0 up or whether we go 1-0 down, we should look to keep playing the way we did to create the opening goal.

"That’s what I’m trying to get to the team. In the biggest moments we need to still try and play under the most pressure.”

Porteous will be a big miss for Hibs during his four-game suspension, but Maloney appears confident that he can be just as influential a player when he returns to action.

Given what the remainder of the season holds for Hibs, his availability could be crucial.

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