Jack Ross hits out at Ryan Porteous hypocrites as Hibs boss backs defender amid mental health claim
Hibs head coach Jack Ross has described some of the abuse suffered by defender Ryan Porteous in the aftermath of his red card against Rangers as ‘beyond the pale’.
The 22-year-old was targeted after his dismissal at Ibrox for a challenge on Joe Aribo half an hour into the Scottish Premiership match, with the hosts running out 2-1 winners.
The Easter Road side appealed the decision but were unsuccessful, with the Scotland Under-21 internationalist out of Hibs’ next two games.
While Ross has already condemned the reaction to the sending-off, branding certain responses ‘inflammatory’, he expanded on the danger of not treating all abuse in the same way.
"Ryan is a pretty strong character and he has needed to be throughout his career because of some of the criticism he has had,” Ross said ahead of Saturday’s meeting with Dundee United.
"Some of it has been justified, and by that I mean criticism about his play from football observers and critics and so on.
"I don’t want it to be confused; I’m not saying that isn’t okay, because that is part of our jobs.
"But I saw a lot of things over the past week that were beyond the pale for me. A lot of the messages he received, and I saw them first hand, would have dominated headlines.
"I have seen sectarian abuse, homophobic abuse, people telling him they want him to die in various different ways and none of it is pleasant, particularly for a 22-year-old lad.
"And it’s based on a tackle. I can accept opinion on whether or not it was a bad tackle or a red card or not, but it was a tackle.”
While largely shunning social media himself, the Hibs boss believes Porteous shouldn’t have to avoid it for fear of receiving vile messages.
“I can be oblivious to it at times because I’m not active on social media and that is easier for me because of my age and my job. I made the decision a few years ago not to be active on it. But it’s quite easy for me, in my forties, to discipline myself to do that.
"Ryan is 22, so while people will say ‘stay off it and don’t be active on it, don’t be visible’, there are not many people in their twenties who aren’t, and I don’t think he should be told not to use it for fear of receiving abuse.”
The manager revealed he had spoken with the player about the abuse, admitting he wasn’t prepared for the types of insults he saw.
"I asked him to show me screenshots of some of the stuff and I was a little taken aback by it; by the venom behind it, the language used, the different types of abuse.
“I think that when it comes to that kind of abuse, reading it is sometimes harder than hearing it. If you hear it in your own voice, it is really not nice, and he has had to deal with that for the past week and I think it is important to highlight that."
There has rightly been a big focus on racism in football in recent times and Ross believes all abuse should be treated the same way.
"I don’t think we should differentiate between different kinds of abuse. It is a dangerous road to go down if we differentiate between different types and suggest people are affected in different ways," he warned.
"In our jobs in a high-profile competitive sport, you get criticism and a certain level of that abuse and banter is accepted but this undoubtedly goes beyond that.
"Some of the things said in stadiums, people wouldn’t be able to say that to you in the street.
"But we have a long way to go in this country, particularly with sectarian abuse. It is still a big thing and I have seen that first hand with Ryan. It is not nice for a man of his age to go through.”
Ross also hit out at those who he felt didn’t help matters.
"Each and every person who comments on football has their own personality, their own character and their own belief in the way they should articulate opinion,” he explained.
“I'm not saying that any way is right or wrong because people will disagree with my opinion and the way I articulate it.”
The Hibs manager also had sharp words for those who had contributed to blowing the incident out of proportion.
“A lot of these people will be quick to highlight mental health issues within the game. I can listen to a programme and they'll talk about Ryan and the next night they're talking about mental health in players. I mean, bloody hell,” Ross added, bemusedly.
“There's a way to discuss and offer opinion. I'm not asking it not to be done; I've got no problem with people discussing any of our players' level of ability or something from a game but I think sometimes we can – not always intentionally – use language that is not entirely accurate.
“I can't say for certain whether that stokes a more aggressive reaction from people but I would hazard a guess that it doesn't help defuse any situation.”
As for Porteous, Ross is confident that he will come through this spell, pointing out that the young defender has a good support network at the club and has overcome many challenges in his career to date.
"He's disappointed he'll miss a couple of games. His form this season has been excellent and he’s trained well this week.
“A lot of the abuse coincided with us having time off and he admitted to finding it tough during that period.
“We offer him support; from management to coaching staff to other players. He'll be fine.
"He's just got to keep learning and developing that fortitude and resilience that enable you to deal with the challenges football throws up.”