The Ibrox gaffer launched another scathing post-match critique of the Hibs defender after he was sent off for a lunge on Joe Aribo at the weekend, stoking a war of words that has been running for a couple of seasons. But Hughes believes that the negativity being directed at the 22-year-old is actually a give away and shows how much the Ibrox side fear his competitiveness.
“I think that Steven Gerrard sees Ryan Porteous as an easy target because of everything that has happened. But I do think that under it all there will be a lot of admiration there. He won’t admit it but knowing the player he was he will love the fact that Ryan can’t be bullied and he plays with his heart on his sleeve and gets stuck in. He just won’t like him doing that against Rangers.”
Stating that he thinks referee Nick Walsh actually made the right decision to flash a red card, Hughes has a less favourable view of the post-match criticism, which appeared to feed a false narrative and fuel an ongoing vendetta between the Ibrox side and the Scotland U-21 cap, who has had several run-ins with the reigning Premiership champions since making his first league start against them three years ago.
As well as red cards for and against, there have been verbal spats, snubbed handshakes and growing antipathy.
“I don’t think Rangers or Celtic like it when players go to Ibrox and Parkhead and refuse to just roll over and have their belly tickled,” said Hughes, offering his view on why there is so much tension.
“Ryan is a highly-competitive player and I’m glad Hibs managed to keep hold of him - I would love to see him captain the club one day. But he has to learn that in football, your opponents are always looking for a way to get at you.
“He doesn’t deserve the reputation they have of him. He is a much more disciplined player these days. But, he has to make sure he isn’t an easy target for them.”