RYAN Porteous has won a reputation as a defender who will do everything in his power to get the ball off an opponent by fair means… or sometimes foul.
Just ask Rangers’ Lassana Coulibaly. Last month he was on the receiving end of one of the tackles the Hibernian star got away with.
So you might think the advice to the 19-year-old defender from the dressing room is to perhaps tone it down a tad.
However, Marvin Bartley believes Porteous should continue his style of taking man and ball, if required, to be the best he can be.
“Ryan is a young boy and I speak to him quite a lot,” said Bartley. “We both enjoy a tackle and sometimes you’re going to mis-time 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 has been, 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 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 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.”
Bartley, no mean tackler himself, revealed Porteous doesn’t let up on his team-mates either.
“Ryan tackles the same way in training,” he said. “Ask any of the boys. 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.
“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 no-holds-barred approach mirrors that of manager Neil Lennon, who was tough as a player and as a boss is hard on his squad, but Bartley has no problem with that.
“We’re professional footballers in a privileged job. If you have a manager shouting at you for a few minutes, we’ll take that. I think most people would swap jobs with us so we’re not going to complain just because the manager sometimes shouts at us.
“Our manager has been there and done it and he just wants the best for us. It’s not as though we have some random man who has never played the game or achieved anything, and he’s shouting. We have one of the most successful managers in Scotland. We take on board everything he says because it’s constructive. It’s just the way he is. Some managers may not be as loud as him, but that’s him and he wants the best for us.
“He treats everyone the same and it’s not as though he gets in anyone’s face. He makes clear what he wants, in no uncertain terms, but he’s honest. He can’t play everyone but if a man-
ager is honest then you accept it.”