Bittersweet Hibs return for Ryan Porteous after Martin Boyle blow

Ryan Porteous credits Martin?Boyle with helping him through his recent injury woes and the Hibernian defender says he will show his gratitude by giving the speedy forward a taste of his own medicine as he battles back from his latest setback.

Ryan Porteous, right, with fellow Hibs defender Steven Whittaker after coming on as a substitute in the pre-season friendly against Newcastle United. Picture: Craig Foy/SNS

That means he will spend the foreseeable future winding him up.

Both players were injured in January and both had knee operations. In the months that followed, they accompanied each other through the necessary rehab.

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Boyle was first to regain his place in the first team, making his competitive return in the Betfred Cup match against Alloa on 20 July. But six days later he hobbled off after injuring his knee yet again, in the final group game against Elgin City.

On Tuesday, the club said that a scan had revealed the need for more surgery and a lengthy lay-off . A setback for the club, it was a massive blow to the Australian international and he earned the sympathies of the man who kept him company throughout most of his previous comeback bid. Even if the nature of their mickey-taking relationship means Porteous is unlikely to mollycoddle him in the weeks and months ahead.

“I don’t know about that. I think I will just be winding him up all the time. 
Waving to him as I head out to 
training!” said Porteous. “Obviously it is a shame for him but he is the sort of character that is going to be in the changing room whether he is playing or not playing so we won’t get rid of him!”

An example of how quickly fortunes can turn, just hours after the club revealed Boyle’s devastating news, 20-year-old Porteous was on a high, making his return to the Leith line-up as a second-half substitute in the friendly with Newcastle United. His first appearance since 23 January, he ran on to a rapturous ovation from the home crowd. But while celebrating his own good news, he said he was gutted to learn that his mate had not been so lucky and insisted Boyle would miss having him around this time, even if they had driven each other mad as the frustrations of their rehab, and Boyle’s patter had taken their toll.

“I think we wanted to tear each other’s hair out! But we did help each other, Anyone who knows Boyler knows he is a big character around the place. Whether he is injured or not, he is great to have about.

“I probably couldn’t have picked anyone better to help me through the injury. Even on days when you are feeling a bit down, he is there to liven you up. He just takes the mick and tells you to get a grip of yourself and it helps a lot to have someone like that with you and I can’t thank him enough because it would have been a lot harder to go through that without him.

“I’m gutted for him. But that was the risk he had to take. It is the same with any operation and we knew the risks before we had the op and we did it so that it would give us a longer, healthier career and unfortunately for him it has not worked out but I don’t think it will be too long a process and hopefully by the end of the year he will be back playing.”

When he does return, Porteous is confident that he will be afforded the kind of welcome he enjoyed on Tuesday night.

“It was brilliant. I wasn’t expecting that but when the fans give you that kind of response it does you the world of good; it boosts your confidence. That’s what I have been building up to for the last five or six months so I was delighted with that. Obviously it has been a long process. My last 90 minutes was December and my last action was at the end of January so it was good to get back out there. It was a great feeling.”

It also validated the reassurances manager Paul Heckingbottom had given Porteous and Boyle when he arrived.

Already sidelined when he was appointed as Neil Lennon’s replacement and unable to prove themselves, Porteous admits there was a fear that they would be overlooked as the new boss plotted the club’s long-term progression but those fears were soon allayed.

“The first week he came in, me and Boyler were probably in the background a bit. But, after the first couple of games, he brought us in and spoke to us and told us we were in his plans. He said he wanted us to be a big part of what he is doing. Even though we weren’t fit he has been taking us aside and coaching us on the game. That was so we knew our roles and responsibilities and how he wants us to play.”

What Porteous now wants is a chance to put all the theory into practice. “I just need more minutes under my belt. I have only been in full training coming up for three weeks so that is not enough time for me to prove myself based on how good Paul [Hanlon] and Daz [Darren McGregor] were last season and how good Jacko [Adam Jackson] has looked since coming in this season.”

But the hard-tackling youngster has been doing his homework, studying past performances and trying to learn from mistakes. Now he just wants to make the most of his fitness. Well, that and wind up Boyle.