Hibs boss leaps to defence of Ryan Porteous amid poor form and Scotland call

Hibs manager Lee Johnson has defended Ryan Porteous’ Scotland call-up despite admitting that there has been a slip in standards from the Easter Road defender in recent weeks.

Hibs manager Lee Johnson believes a change of scenery might help Porteous.
Hibs manager Lee Johnson believes a change of scenery might help Porteous.

The 23-year-old has been a key player for the Leith side, who are embroiled in a tight battle for European spots, but after a run of four Premiership wins on the bounce, they have registered just one win in six games and dropped down from third spot. That dip has been reflected in Porteous’ performances, but his club boss has backed him to produce the goods for Scotland manager Steve Clarke when the national side travels to Turkey next week.

“Three or four weeks ago, we were all hailing Ryan as a hero,” said Johnson. “So, this is part of being a footballer. Your form can go up and down and I think he’d say that off the ball his defending hasn’t been as good as it had been leading into that spell. He’s a very honest player. He can look at himself and be honest with that. Not everybody can and that’s a good sign; that’s why he’s an international player.”

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Porteous made his Scotland debut this year, defying his critics and earning rave reviews for his performance against Ukraine in September. It saw his stock soar, just as his current club contract is running down. “I think he deserves his call-up,” added Johnson. “And, a change is as good as a rest, in terms of his focus being on Scotland and something different, and he’ll be fine when he comes back to us.”

Hibs defender Ryan Porteous has been called into the Scotland squad once again.

While many of his club-mates will enjoy eight days off before returning to training as domestic football takes a pause to allow the World Cup to take centre stage, Porteous will be kept busy, with further talks on his future also scheduled during the Premiership intermission. Hibs have tabled a new deal, designed to convince the academy graduate to stay at the club but, explaining that he wanted to concentrate on football, it was agreed that discussions would be sidelined until the World Cup break.

Now, Johnson wants to give this weekend’s crucial match against bottom-of-the-table Kilmarnock his full attention before re-opening negotiations. “I don’t know any more from two or three weeks ago, when it was parked,” said Johnson. “Let’s get this game out of the way first then it will be ‘what are you doing?’ And it will be ‘I am or I’m not [staying]’. But at the moment he’s obviously playing and it’s not something you want to push while he’s playing.”

Hibs’ World Cup hopeful Martin Boyle, who is still recovering from a knee injury, has now flown out to join the Australian squad in Doha. The Hibs boss says that there will be daily contact with the club’s physio department. But the trip to Kilmarnock remains the immediate priority back here as Johnson’s squad try to sign off for the break with a much-needed, confidence-boosting three points. Even if that means winning ugly. “I don’t think it will be the biggest underdog story if we go and get a result, even though it seems a long way to go from a pretty poor performance midweek, to getting a good win,” added the manager. “But it’s my job to instil belief in individuals and the team.”