Marvin Bartley has urged Hibs teenager Ryan Porteous to ignore the flak directed at him following a tackle on Lassana Coulibaly which the Rangers midfielder claimed could have ended his career.
Porteous was booked for his challenge on the Frenchman during last month’s scoreless draw between the clubs at Easter Road, Ibrox manager Steven Gerrard branding it as reckless while his own boss Neil Lennon admitted his defender was perhaps lucky not to be sent off.
Coulibaly went further saying: “These type of tackles can injure someone so badly that they do not play again. I think the referees need to protect the player because that type of tackle is a red card.”
But now midfield enforcer Bartley has insisted Scotland Under-21 cap Porteous shouldn’t change his robust style of defending simply because of that criticism.
He said: “Ryan is a young boy and I speak to him quite a lot. We both enjoy a tackle and sometimes you’re going to mistime them and sometimes people are going to get upset by them.
“But that’s football and the referee is out there for a reason. If the referee doesn’t see it as a foul then I’d say he knows the laws of the game better than us. Sometimes as players you’re out there and you think ‘I know best’, but if you asked 90 per cent of players they wouldn’t have a clue on the laws.
“I said to Porteous, ‘don’t stop what you’re doing just because someone has piped up and said something’. It won’t be the last time it happens to him. He just needs to continue playing the way he’s been playing – because he’s been brilliant – and he’ll be fine. As older boys, if he has any element of doubt, we’ll be wiping that away because he’s a great player with the way he plays. If he starts changing then he might not be so effective so he won’t be changing – I’ll tell you that!
“He’s got to keep improving and he knows that but he works extremely hard at his game and why should he change?
“Tackling is the main thing for a centre-half and he’s very, very good at it. So he’s not going to start going in a bit softer because people want to complain about it.
“It’s football, let’s just get on with it. It’s a contact sport and if the referee doesn’t think there is a foul then that’s fine by me. So I don’t really agree with a young boy going in the paper and saying ‘he could have done this or that’.”
Bartley revealed he enjoys mixing it with Porteous and Hibs’ other youngsters on a daily basis at Hibs’ East Mains training centre.
“Ryan tackles the same way in training,” said the 32-year-old. “Ask any of the boys and they’ll say the same thing. If there’s a 50-50 in training then he goes in.
“We train the way we play – none of us are good enough to turn it off and on. If we could we wouldn’t be playing at this level, we’d be at Barcelona! So we have to train the way we play and that’s the way Ryan goes about it. And we accept it.
“Honestly, big Lewis Allan decked me the other day in training. He punched me in the face at the same time and as I got up he turned and looked at me quite sheepishly.
“But I was like ‘no, well done mate, that’s good’. That’s what you need to do. I’ve been knocked about a few times and he’s a big old boy so I’m not messing with him. I gave him a pat on the back and went on my way, holding my jaw! But our young boys are enthusiastic and they’re a part of what we’re doing. They’re good lads.”
The departure of Efe Ambrose may, admitted Bartley, thrust more responsibility on to Porteous’ young shoulders unless Lennon recruits another centre-back this month.
He said: “It’s definitely a blow. Efe is a brilliant centre-back. He gets a lot of stick from opposing fans but they’d probably want him in their team. After leaving us they’re probably asking ‘I wonder if we could sign him?’
“He’s a massive player and was massive for us in the first part of the season, probably our best player. The manager will probably look to replace him but he might look at the players we have in the squad and think he can get by.
“But Efe is a huge loss as he’s a good man off the pitch as well. I actually spoke to him last week and he’s missing playing FIFA with the boys on PlayStation. He’s a FIFA addict, even though I don’t think he won a game throughout the whole time he was with us. Honestly, he lost to everyone. But he seemed to enjoy it.
“He just seemed to be in his own little world sometimes when he was on the pitch – sometimes I felt there were birds flying around in his head.
“He’s a great guy and the lads miss him. Efe is a passionate guy – a strange character – but a passionate guy. Sometimes he wouldn’t say a word and other times he’d start shouting. But he’s a winner so wherever he goes he’ll do well.”