“I don’t claim to be hard or anything like that”, says Hibs defender Ryan Porteous
Pundit Kris Boyd suggested in a recent newspaper column that the Hibs central defender needs to “wise up” and stop “acting the hard man” if he is to fulfil his undoubted potential and reach the very top.
“If he sees himself as the next Paul Hanlon or Lewis Stevenson, then fair enough,” wrote the former Rangers and Scotland striker. “But I genuinely believe he’s got the potential to be better than that.”
Porteous is not having any of it.
“I kind of saw it as very disrespectful to Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson,” he says. “They are players who have played 1,000 games for the club, won three trophies between them. Legends.
“I feel any young player should be growing up to aspire to be like them. Kris Boyd said I was a top player, if you read it properly. He said I was a top player with all the attributes to go to the very top.
“So I was very disappointed to see that he was saying those kinds of things about Paul and Lewis.”
Porteous has been praised and criticised in equal measure for his performances in recent weeks, and accepts there have been times when he has dipped below the level he expects of himself.
He admits the first half against Motherwell on Saturday, for example, was not good enough. He knows there is room for improvement, but overall he is satisfied with his own form and the way Hibs have defended this season.
Aggression is part and parcel of his game and any suggestion that he needs to dial it down is given the same treatment. Porteous is not having it. He doesn't accept Boyd’s ‘hard man’ portrayal either.
“I don’t know where he’s got that from,” says the 22-year-old. “I don’t claim to be hard or anything like that. It’s laughable, really.
“Aggression is part of football, not just being a centre-half. I want my strikers to be aggressive, my wingers, my manager. Aggression is part of the game.
“It’s not acting hard, it’s just part of the game.”
Porteous can’t escape from the attention he has received this season. Lots of it good, some of it bad. The social media trolling he’s received is deplorable. But he tries to shut it out. He has a Scotland call-up to be proud of and knows he has the confidence and backing of manager Jack Ross.
“It’s not been easy,” he admits. “But all the noise that happens outside I try and ignore, try and block it out. Because, really, it’s irrelevant. That’s not going to change my game or help my game.
“You are never as good as what people say you are and you are never as bad as people say you are.
“The gaffer, he keeps reminding me – and it’s not just me – that since I’ve been playing in the team, we’ve finished third, reached two cup finals, record away wins, a lot of clean sheets.
“Listen, I don’t need to sit here and defend myself but there are a lot of people in this building who think really highly of me. That’s enough for me.
“The first half against Motherwell was poor but other than that I feel I have been strong defensively.
“The gaffer has told me how good I’ve been doing this season and that’s always good to hear.
“It is disappointing when you look at the table and see you are not up in that top six where we want to be. But, we are in another cup final, we performed well in that big game and we just want to try and keep it going. Personally I feel like I’m having a good season.”
Porteous accepts that more clean sheets would help Hibs escape from the rut of bad league results. Goalkeeper Matt Macey’s last shutout was on September 26 against St Johnstone and Hibs have conceded in each of the nine games since. Often, it’s been just one goal a game, but that can be all it takes to throw away a win.
“We can’t rely on our forwards all the time – on Nizzy, and Boyley and Doidgey to keep scoring goals,” says Porteous.
“We need to keep clean sheets and get shutouts because we know that is the perfect foundation for winning games. If we can get back to that and back to basics then we can start climbing the table again.
“I think we have defended really well this season and I don’t think there are many teams that have caused us too many problems.
“On Saturday we probably got what we deserved because of how badly we had played in the first half. But we are a good, close-knit bunch in defence and we just want to make things right and start getting clean sheets.”
He adds: “We need to have a good festive period and get some momentum and get back to where we should be.
“It has not been for the lack of performance, we just need to try to find ways to win games.”
The next three games, against Livingston, St Mirren and Dundee, should provide an opportunity to do that. All three are in the bottom six, and Porteous accepts that they are the type of games Hibs must start winning.
“If we want to be third, fourth place every year, we have to be going to places like Livingston and getting three points,” he says. “It’s a tough place to go but that’s what good teams do.
“You saw Hearts do it the other day. I don’t think they played too well, but they went there and got three points. That’s what good teams do. We need to start doing that too.”
As ever with Porteous, it won’t be for the want of trying.