Jim Goodwin v Ryan Porteous: Loggerheads and barbs but does Aberdeen boss see a bit of himself in Hibs defender

Who’s talking here, Jim Goodwin or Ryan Porteous? “I was competitive and a nightmare to play against because I really got in the opposition’s faces.”

Ryan Porteous doesn't need to be hooded-up to fulfill the role of Scottish football's bogeyman.
Ryan Porteous doesn't need to be hooded-up to fulfill the role of Scottish football's bogeyman.

Put a name to this quote: “The reputation I had really encouraged clubs to tell their players to go down whenever I was near so I might get sent off – but obviously there were many occasions when I got what I deserved because I allowed myself to get caught up in the heat of the moment.”

And this one, jokey, self-mocking and hazy on the number of yellow cards accrued: “Could it have been as many as a hundred? Better say 90.”

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And finally in this week’s quiz: “I’m not a caveman – I don’t chew on raw meat! When folk meet me for the first time, down the pub over a few pints when the chat starts, I think they’re surprised. I’m not saying I’m this fantastic guy but I reckon they might go away thinking: ‘He’s not what I thought, he’s not as bad as he’s made out to be.’”

Probably the past tense is a giveaway. Aberdeen boss Goodwin is the retired pro, of course, while Hibs defender Porteous is very much out there right now. They are remarks by Goodwin in 2017, from an enjoyable interview when I met him at Alloa Athletic, his first club as a manager, but what’s interesting, I think, is that they could almost, with a wee edit here and there, belong to the Hibernian centre-back.

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Goodwin used to be the big, bad wolf of Scottish football – bogeyman, panto villain, public enemy No 1. Now these various roles belong to Porteous. Which definitely adds a certain piquancy to their current spat.

Last weekend at Easter Road, in case you missed this during the nationwide mourning but it doesn’t seem like you did, Porteous and Aberdeen’s Liam Scales clashed. Hibs were awarded a penalty and the Dons defender was sent off. Scales’ boss went ballistic and accused Porteous of cheating, the Hibees complained – and now Goodwin faces an SFA charge.

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This stooshie is freighted with irony. Goodwin, when we spoke, reflected on his card-heavy years as St Mirren’s enforcer when he often endured “trial by Sportscene”. Steven Thompson, then a pundit and yet still a Buddy, would phone him after games to warn him about incriminating footage upcoming. Goodwin told me: “Thommo would say: ‘It doesn’t look good.’ I felt sorry for him. So I’d say: ‘Tell it like it is, no point in holding back.’”

Last weekend, right after the final whistle, always a dangerous time for talk, Goodwin made his complaints about the incident and challenged the pundits to try and see it any different during the evening broadcast. Michael Stewart, without hesitation, agreed with Goodwin’s assertion that Porteous had “won” his team the penalty. I’m usually in agreement with Stewart on most things but really don’t know how he could be so sure about this.

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Something that no one mentioned is that Scales was doing what defenders do in such situations: standing directly in front of Porteous, blocking his run as the corner kick was delivered, not looking at the ball at all. This had a definite bearing on the tussling that followed but Sportscene’s cameras weren’t conclusive about who had hold of whom, and much as the incident renewed calls for VAR arriving not soon enough, the technology will only settle matters if it’s EPL standard and not some inferior version.

Porteous can be a frustrating player to watch. There’s no little passion and bravery and skill in his game but not as much of the maturity those of us impressed by his debut in a win at Ibrox all of four years ago would have hoped. At times, interest in him from elsewhere having apparently cooled, he can seem bored with the Scottish scene, as if it all comes too easily to him, which can lead to lapses in concentration and blunders. He’s much loved by the Hibee hardcore but in few other places, and his Scotland call-up last week prompted the usual abuse from Twitter trolls sat in their underpants.

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But he’s not the only player right now who thunders into tackles. Who – terrible euphemism, pundits, cut it out – “draws the foul” from an opponent. He might be the only player who does it with such bare-faced cheek, St Johnstone’s Murray Davidson being the red-carded fall-guy on opening day. He might be the only player as cocky as he is in post-match interviews. But there could be some jealousy here. Rival supporters would admire this ballsiness and fearlessness if they could call it their own.

Fatally, I reckon in this case, Goodwin did not pause and reflect after his initial grumble, but went further when talking to club channel Red TV. “That’s what the boy does,” he said of Porteous. “He’s made a helluva career out of winning penalties for Hibs. I’ve seen him doing it numerous times.” Numerous? I’m not sure it’s that many, Jim.

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Goodwin was doing what managers do in such situations. With this direct line to supporters, he was trying to explain, and possibly excuse, another defeat, when the truth is Hibs were well on top before the red card and even more so after it, something the Dons contingent grudgingly acknowledged. He was, if you like, playing to the gallery – just as Porteous will play to his gallery with those macho performances.

Goodwin saw the tracksuited Porteous out of the corner of his eye as he said his piece. But maybe the old warrior was also recognising a bit of himself in the younger man.

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