Ryan Porteous: Hibs boss Lee Johnson speaks on defender's hatemail and criticises 'unhelpful' Craig Levein comments
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Johnson was referring to comments made by the former Hearts manager during an appearance on BBC Radio Scotland’s Sportsound programme, in which he said: “I'm delighted for Ryan Porteous. He was getting a bit of stick earlier in the season and his header [against Motherwell] was brave to say the least.
"All credit to him. He's had stick but he's went about it the right way and showed people that he's made of strong stuff. But he can go to someone else now, not Hibs."
It was likely a comment made in jest by Levein but Johnson believes it has merely added to the negativity around his player.
"You've got people like Craig Levein coming out and saying that Ryan should potentially not be here and look to pastures new. This is a guy who's on the board of the panel that allows players into the country if they don't meet the criteria,” Johnson said, as he previewed his side’s trip to Celtic on Saturday.
"He's publicly saying Ryan should be at a different club down south. How do I replace Ryan Porteous? I have to go abroad, then I'm back in front of Craig Levein and the panel saying, 'thanks for that'. We've lost Ryan and now I have to bring in a guy from, say, Timbuktu to replace him, because that's where I can get the value. It's comments like that that I don't think are helpful, whether it's an ex-Hearts manager or someone in that position on that panel."
Easter Road fans are also awaiting news of contract talks between the club and the Scotland internationalist with bated breath, as the 23-year-old approaches the final six months of his contract, but Johnson said on Thursday: “Discussions have been positive but we can talk until we are blue in the face, until it’s been signed it doesn’t mean anything.”
The Easter Road manager admitted he fears the treatment Porteous receives on and off the park could chase him out of the Scottish game, referring to a number of incidents during the Dundee United defeat and some unsavoury mail arriving at HTC.
“I do fear [him being chased away] but it’s understandable, because when you get a smack in the face with an elbow and three bookable offences on you on Tuesday night, it happens.
“I think he copes with it really well. He came in the other day and he was laughing at a fan letter – well, actually it was more of a hater letter. It was pretty naughty but his response was, ‘Stick it in the pile!’
“It’s not isolated. Some people thrive on it, others don’t. I’ve had players who love being the pantomime baddie and others who look to change because of that circumstance. Inevitably, they just want to be successful.
"Whether it's the media, individuals, comments from the stand of 'smash Porto' or whatever, or whether the pantomime around Ryan subliminally affects someone's mind… These are the things you question.
"I'm not saying they're true, I'm just saying that it's what goes on in someone’s mind when they've got a perception of someone."