Ryan Porteous is ambitious but realistic. As a lifelong Hibs fan, the moment he makes his first-team debut can’t come quickly enough.
However, at the age of just 18 and up against the likes of Darren McGregor, Efe Ambrose, Paul Hanlon, Liam Fontaine and Jordon Forster for a place in head coach Neil Lennon’s central defence, he knows that’s not likely to come any time soon.
And, having spent last season – highly successfully – on loan at League Two newcomers Edinburgh City, Porteous admits he’d happily be farmed out again if the Easter Road club believe that’s in his best interests.
He said: “Obviously, it’s going to be an exciting season with Hibs back in the Premiership but, on a personal level, although I’d love to be part of the gaffer’s plans, when you look at the central defenders we have it’s not going to be easy to break into the first team.
“There might be the opportunity for me to go on loan again and I’d be happy with that. I have to trust what Eddie May, Grant Murray and the gaffer say. They have been right with everything so far so I trust them.”
Porteous has no doubts he is a far better player thanks to his season with Hibs’ near neighbours, the exposure to the rough and tumble of professional football having helped improve his game in every aspect.
He said: “I have to thank City manager Gary Jardine and his backroom staff for having a lot of faith in me. I was only 17 so it was a bit of a gamble to throw me in. But I think after a few games I showed what I was capable of and as the season went on I got more confident.
“My physicality not only improved but also my brain, playing against guys like Peter Weatherson and even playing with and in training against Craig Beattie. The biggest striker I played against the development league was probably my size, but in League Two there were guys a lot heavier than me.
“You do struggle for a bit but having a big bloke like Joe Mbu alongside helped. There’s the technical and tactics side but then you have to learn about the physical side and the competitiveness of it all.”
There was also the benefit of being initiated into the darker side of the game. Porteous said: “You quickly learn a few of the dirty tricks, an elbow in the face, nipping. Playing against experienced strikers you have to take the rough and tumble, learn to dish it out as well as take it. They aren’t going to hold back just because you are 17.”
Porteous combined playing for City with turning out for Hibs in the SPFL Development League which, along with games for Scotland’s Under-19 side, saw him clock up more than 70 games last season, one day returning from international duty to pull on a green-and-white jersey a few hours later and then volunteering to play again that night for City, only to be over-ruled by Jardine. He said: “At my age, all you want to do is play and I did feel as if I could play the two games that day and I’ll be happy to play as many matches as I can again this season.”
No disrespect to City, but Porteous believes playing for a side newly promoted to the SPFL and favourites to be relegated was of particular benefit.
He said: “I think you learn more as a defender being in a team that needs to defend – you learn the tricks of the trade.
“It was a big responsibility playing central defence at 17. Strikers my age can grab themselves a headline with a first-team goal but for us one mistake and the opposition can be through on goal and you have cost the team. With pressure comes consistency.”
There were moments, though, when Porteous created his own headlines, scoring the only goal of the game that secured City’s first league win at their Meadowbank home and then claiming a last-minute winner away to Arbroath which guaranteed they were safe from the threat of relegation.
Porteous said: “Scoring for our first home victory was good but it was a great feeling that last-minute goal at Arbroath. You could see what it meant to Gary and everyone with the celebrations afterwards.”
Dumbarton boss Stevie Aitken has already expressed an interest in taking Porteous on loan for the coming season and the youngster admitted another spell with a part-time club which would allow him to continue training with Lennon’s squad at East ~ Mains appealed. He said: “I haven’t spoken to anyone but if it happens then a step up I’d be happy with as long as Hibs believe it’s the right move, the right club, right manager and so on.
“I don’t think there’s a better place to develop as a young player than at Hibs, training alongside the guys we have here. I was a season-ticket holder and grew up watching the likes of Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson so to train with them and the likes of Efe who has played at the highest level, beating Barcelona and so on, is a terrific education.”