Where others see a challenge, Ryan Porteous sees an opportunity.
On paper Scotland’s Under-19s have landed one of the toughest draws around in their European Under-19 Championship Elite Round – with Donald Park’s side set to line up against hosts Germany, Netherlands and Norway.
Only the group winners will progress to this summer’s finals in Finland, but Hibernian centre-back Porteous, who is likely to skipper the Scots, insists the squad head for Germany in optimistic mood.
What did you make of the draw, Ryan?
It’s a tough draw, obviously, but I think it’s an exciting one. It’s a chance for us to test ourselves against some of the best players in Europe. That’s one of the good things about international football – it can be night and day from some of the stuff you’ll come up against domestically. But if you want to develop then you have to be out of your comfort zone, so it’s another experience that I’m looking forward to.
You’ve purposely played some tough teams in the build-up. Do you think that’s helped?
It’s something that Donald talked about. We’d rather be pushed like that and I think it’ll help us going into the Elite Round. We’ll know what to expect and what levels we have to hit.
You’re a born and bred Hibee. Are you old enough to remember the impact Donald Park had at Easter Road as a coach?
Not quite! I’m too young to remember it but it’s something I’ve spoken about a few times with Steven Whittaker and a few others. Donald obviously had a big influence on them. Hibs brought through a bunch of good players in a short space of time and I’ve heard he was an important part of that. I’m hoping a bit of it will rub off on me because I obviously want to go on and hit the heights they did. Donald made me captain, which means a lot, and I also enjoy working with Darren Jackson and the rest of the staff.
You’ve spoken previously about how important your season-long loan at Edinburgh City was, in terms of playing competitive football week in, week out. Now you’ve had a taste of first-team football with Hibs, how would you look back on the last year?
I’ll always say that that loan to Edinburgh City did me the world of good. There was talk that I would go out again but Neil Lennon told me he wanted me to stay and I’ve been lucky enough to play in a decent number of games. I feel like I’ve handled myself well whenever called upon. My main aim at the start of the season was to get as many games as possible. There have been more highs than lows so I have a lot to be thankful for. Not least the help I’ve had from people like Darren McGregor, Efe Ambrose and Paul Hanlon. I just want to keep working hard and see where it takes me.
A couple of your team-mates made Alex McLeish’s first Scotland squad. Unfortunately Dylan McGeouch’s had to pull out through injury but what would he and John McGinn add to the national side?
I’m gutted for Dylan because he deserved his opportunity. He’s been a massive player for us this season and I’m sure his chance will come round again. He’s brilliant at receiving and keeping the ball in tight areas. John’s done well for Scotland whenever he’s had the chance. He’s got real drive and can chip in with a goal.
Looking longer-term, seeing the likes of Jack Hendry and Scott McKenna involved at senior level must give hope to you and some of the other Under-19 boys?
I think it’s great to see two young defenders in the full squad, along with the likes of Oli McBurnie. It shows that if you’re doing well at club level and doing the best you can for the national youth teams then people will pay attention and give you a shot. First and foremost we want to qualify for the Euros at Under-19 level but obviously, looking ahead, it’s every young player’s dream to play for Scotland.
European Under-19 Championship Elite Round
Elite Round group winners will go on to play in the finals this summer in Finlan.
Scotland v Germany, Wednesday 21 March, kick-off 6pm (local time), Am Bruchbaum, Lippstadt.
Scotland v Netherlands, Saturday 24 March, kick-off 5pm (local time), Stadion Grosse Wiese, Arnsberg.
Scotland v Norway, Tuesday 27 March, kick-off 6pm (local time), Am Bruchbaum, Lippstadt.
Aidan McAdams (Rangers)
Kieran Wright (Rangers*)
Aidan Wilson (Rangers*)
Daniel Church (Celtic)
Matthew Shiels (Rangers)
Robbie Deas (Celtic)
Ryan Porteous (Hibernian)
Stephen Welsh (Celtic)
Wallace Duffy (Celtic)
Charlie Gilmour (Arsenal)
Elliot Watt (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Jamie Barjonas (Rangers)
Jonny Mitchell (Falkirk) PS
Kerr McInroy (Celtic)
Lewis Ferguson (Hamilton Academical)
Fraser Hornby (Everton)
Fraser Murray (Hibernian)
Glenn Middleton (Rangers)
Jack Aitchison (Celtic)
Zak Rudden (Rangers) PS
*On loan to Albion Rovers
**On loan to Dumbarton
PS - denotes Performance School player