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WHAT HIBS MEANS TO ME | RYAN PORTEOUS

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WHAT HIBS MEANS TO ME | RYAN PORTEOUS

‘He’s one of our own’ is a tagline which has been used in reference to many players in recent years.

Derek Riordan, Leigh Griffiths, Paul Hanlon and Darren McGregor have all been adored by Hibs fans for their love of the club and commitment on the pitch.

Ryan Porteous is the club’s newest local hero, with the Dalkeith-born Hibee breaking into the first team squad and becoming a fan favourite in only a few seasons – all before his 21st birthday.

Visits to Easter Road with his dad were a regular habit from a young age. As a result, Ryan’s earliest memories of home games are hard to pinpoint.

“I went every Saturday with my dad. I can’t remember my first game because I was so young but the walk down Easter Road from London Road on the way to the stadium sticks in my mind.”

Garry O’Connor, Riordan and Ian Murray stand out as Ryan’s favourite players during his childhood, with passion for the shirt and desire to win qualities he sees in himself and his teammates today.

“These guys were Hibs through and through and gave their all for the club. They always performed in the big games.

“It’s similar now. The fans love guys like Martin Boyle and Darren McGregor - players who bleed Hibs, know what it means to play for the club and always show up for the important matches.”

Unlike many Hibs fans, Ryan didn’t have to wait very long for his first taste of cup success as a fan, with the 2007 CIS Cup final win over Kilmarnock coming exactly one week before his eighth birthday.

“I remember most of the games leading up to the final. Playing against St Johnstone at Tynecastle was great. I was in the old main stand with my dad and it was brilliant to see the stadium packed with three stands of Hibs fans.

“The cup final itself was brilliant. I don’t think I understood how important the game was at the time, but the scenes were unbelievable. I couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing.

“After the game I realised it was something that doesn’t happen a lot. I was lucky for it to happen so early on in my life.”

Impressive performances for Dalkeith Thistle and Edina Hibs attracted the attention of The Sheep’s scouts. After a short while in the north-east, Hibernian came calling with the temptation eventually too much to turn down.

“I remember my dad telling me Hibs were interested. Although I was a massive Hibs fan I didn’t want to leave my pals and go to something new so I stuck it out at The Sheep for another six months until my dad said ‘listen, son, you’re going to Hibs and that’s the end of it’.

“I was a bit nervous to go at first, but it was an absolute no brainer looking back and I have to thank my dad for that.”

Ryan joined Hibernian’s youth system as a 13-year-old and worked his way through the age groups before joining the first team squad under Neil Lennon in the 2017/18 season.

As a young professional looking to make a name for himself in the game, Ryan leaned on a number of experienced players in the dressing room for help and advice during training and matches.

“Paul and Daz were always brilliant with me. When I was coming through there were a lot of big personalities in the changing room, people like Grant Holt, John McGinn, Dylan McGeouch and Fraser Fyvie.

“I remember John and Grant putting their arm round me at times. Big Brian Graham was brilliant too – he always dished it out but told me to give it back to him.

“John at quite a young age was a great help and you can see that with what he’s achieved now.”

As a fan Ryan would attend matches home and away with his school friends when he could. Taking steps into the professional game meant he had to quickly get used to being on the other side of the white line.

“It was hard to separate being a fan and a player at first. When I was on loan at Edinburgh City the first thing I’d do would be to check my phone to see how Hibs had got on. That’s when I realised it was my job and I need to get on with it instead of just being a fan.

“I need to be able to take myself away from that as well as using it in a positive way. It was difficult at times but I’m training with people like Paul Hanlon and Lewis Stevenson who I now class as my good pals rather than players I looked up to as a kid.”

Ryan’s first team debut came in the League Cup group stages when Montrose visited Easter Road in July 2017. After years of dreaming about playing for Hibernian, he was delighted when the chance came his way.

“It was a brilliant feeling. It was a League Cup game so it possibly wasn’t quite the atmosphere you’d hope for on your debut but it was great.

“It was relatively pressure free and I went out and enjoyed it as much as I could. Six months later I made my league debut at Ibrox in my first start, which was completely opposite to playing Montrose at home!”

It didn’t take long for Ryan to get on the scoresheet in a first team shirt, with a rare double coming in his next start at Easter Road, this time against Arbroath in the League Cup with a number of friends and family in attendance.

“I can’t remember much of the first goal, but the second goal I knew I was going to score as soon as the ball came in – I followed it the whole way and enjoyed it.

“I knew I was going to be playing because the gaffer had named the team the day before so I’d told all my friends and family to be there.

“They were buzzing for me and I can imagine they’d have been delighted in the stands.”

As a tough tackling defender, Ryan’s desire and commitment to the shirt is something fans admire – his no nonsense approach makes him a favourite amongst the Easter Road faithful.

He believes being a fan means he gives his all for the shirt, while acknowledging it’s important to be able to use his feelings for Hibs in the right ways.

“I do think at times I give an added bit of heart because I care that much about the club. I wouldn’t call it pressure but it’s a good situation to be in that I’m representing the team I love.

“I’ve been a big tackler throughout my whole career. When I was at The Sheep I was flying into tackles left, right and centre.

“It’s obviously something you want to control but I definitely get an added kick because I’m doing it for a club I want to fight for.”

As he’s progressed from fan to player, the way Ryan views matches from the stands has changed significantly.

A regular attendee during his early season injury and amongst the Hibernian support at Tynecastle on Boxing Day, Ryan is not short of offers from friends and family to go to games when he’s not involved.

“It’s a completely different feeling now. When I was a fan I was excited for the game and I didn’t really know what was happening.

“Now when I’m not playing I’m all nerves because I can’t do anything to affect the game, I’ve just got to hope the other boys do it.

“Watching the recent Hearts game, the fans were still nervous at 2-0 up but as a player I kind of knew with the way we play that we weren’t going to let it slip.”

Looking back on his fledgling Hibs career to date, Ryan cites his first league start under Neil Lennon as one of his favourite moments.

“The 2-1 win at Ibrox was brilliant. It was something that looking back I don’t think I was really ready for at the time – I was oblivious to it all and I went out and enjoyed it.

“We had an unbelievable team with John McGinn in the middle and Jamie [McLaren] and Flo [Kamberi] up front – it was amazing to be a part of.

“I’ve got to thank Neil Lennon for throwing me in when he could have just as easily changed the team to fit other people in.”

As a fan walking down Easter Road with his dad on a matchday Ryan dreamed of pulling on a green and white shirt and representing Hibernian.

Even at this early stage of his career he can say he has achieved things most Hibernian fans can only wish for – and he’s not taking anything for granted.

“It’s been my whole life. Every weekend without fail has been about Hibs; going to games, watching on the TV, playing games for the youth team or playing for the first team.

“It has been my life for more than 16 years. It’s hard to sum up into words but it’s second nature now and it’s a part of me I don’t think I’ll ever lose.”



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