Ryan Porteous has revealed being sidelined for six months by injury has allowed him to reflect on his approach to the game, promising Hibs fans they’ll see a far more composed defender.
The Easter Road support lapped up the youngster’s “do or die” style, one which saw him burst two balls in making tackles but the time spent recovering from a knee operation and chats with new boss Paul Heckingbottom have opened his eyes to how “reckless and rash” he had sometimes been.
The Scotland Under-21 internationalist said: “He has not specifically said take this or that out of your game, but he has obviously said he wants me to work on this and that.
“I think everyone knows that I have to work on the rashness in my game and cut some of that out. I don’t think any manager would want – and I’d certainly wouldn’t – want me to take it out of my game completely, but I do need to work on the recklessness and rashness, on my general fitness levels and doing the right things in the gym to make sure injuries like this don’t happen again.”
The injury referenced was a torn meniscus in his knee suffered, ironically, not in a tackle but as he turned during a match against Rangers in mid-December, although the extent of his problem wasn’t fully appreciated at the time.
“That’s the most frustrating part for me,” said the 20-year-old, “After all these tackles, it was something as simple as me just turning in the middle of the pitch that done it. I tore my meniscus in that game but I had no idea. It wasn’t sore, wasn’t swollen so I played the following game against Livingston and it kept clicking, as I describe it, ‘popping out of place’.
The problem persisted and after being forced to limp out of Hibs’ clash with Motherwell at the end of January – former boss Neil Lennon’s last match in charge – Porteous visited a specialist after two scans failed to pinpoint the trouble.
Porteous said: “He said it could only be one thing, a ‘bucket handle meniscus tear’ and within the week I’d had the operation.”
Hours, days, weeks and months were spent rehabilitating but, insisted Porteous, that time was well spent. He said: “I’ve been doing a lot of watching of my games from over the past two years and seeing when to go in for tackles and when not to.
“I’ve been trying to use those examples and work them into my game but experience also helps you with that, learning from mistakes. Hopefully I have made enough mistakes that I have now learned from them.”
Porteous made a surprise return as a second-half substitute during Hibs’ friendly with Newcastle, revealing he was totally taken aback at the rapturous welcome he got as he replaced Darren McGregor.
He said: “It was brilliant. I wasn’t expecting that but when the fans give yo that kind of response it does you the world of good.”