RYAN PORTEOUS was in expansive mood as he previewed Hibernian’s Scottish Cup quarter-final against Motherwell.
Q. Is clinching at least fourth place just the first step when there is a lot still to achieve?
A. Yeah. On Thursday the manager pulled us in and said, ‘Listen I know we didn’t really talk about it after the game but fourth is a big achievement, getting Europe, etc. But now that that’s secured, we move onto achieving the goals we set ourselves at the start of the season’.
That was getting third place and we now want to get that out the way. But, for now, our main focus is getting through to the semi-final and trying to book a place at Hampden again.
Q. Would it be anti-climactic if you go deep in three cups and don’t win one? Do you want something tangible to show for season?
A. Of course, yeah. We have done well to put ourselves in the position where we could get something tangible but so far we have just not seen it through. The first one [semi-final] I felt we did more than enough to win the game but it didn’t happen and then in the second one we got what we deserved.
First and foremost, we need to see off a decent Motherwell team who are on a good run of form and in previous games they have proved a tough nut to crack so we know this will be another tough one. But we have full belief in ourselves and the team and we believe we can go and see them off and get to another semi-final.
Q. No celebrations after the game on Wednesday, did you know you had qualified for Europe?
It had probably been a long time coming. We have felt for a while that fifth was never going to catch us and our goal was not just to finish fourth this season or to just get European football. Our goal has always been to finish third. That is what we want and there will be celebrations if that happens because that would be a massive achievement.
We knew what it meant on Wednesday but we didn’t make a big deal of it after the game or in the dressing room because that is not what this group is all about. We want to get as high up the league as possible and bring the best success as possible. Third place is the one everyone has got their eye on.
Q. How has the season been for you, personally?
A. It’s been a great season. My goal was to play consistently for 30-35 games and now I have hit that mark I just want to keep performing at a high level. There have obviously been ups and downs through the season, performances have been that way as well. But I think now I have hit a high level of consistency and now I want to keep that going.
There are three massive league games and hopefully three big cup games left. I think it has been a good season with blips in between but I am happy with how it has gone so far.
Q. What was the message from the manager when he left you out of the team in February?
A. It was the manager’s decision, that close to deadline day when bids were coming in. I wasn’t focused on that at all, my head was solely focused on the Dundee United game we had. The manager asked me where my head was at and I told him it was on the game.
He made the decision and it was the right one because Daz [Darren McGregor] came in and strolled it, scored, we kept a clean sheet and the boys won. So he helped us massively by making those big calls. It’s not just an 11-man squad, everyone was needed and everyone has played their part and now it’s about one final push.
Q. Were you always confident you’d get back in?
A. I wasn’t confident I’d get back in.. Daz was playing like Baresi at that point! But I have confidence in my own ability and I just needed to keep training well and hope that I could sneak my way back in. I’ve managed to do that and now we are playing well it’s all about that final four or five weeks and giving it a big push.
Q. Would a Scottish Cup win help boost your profile ahead of a massive summer with the Euros and the transfer window?
A. A Scottish Cup winner’s medal can only help. I just want to perform consistently, stay fit and see what happens with Scotland and other things. We will play it by ear.
I’m focused on the football side of things just now and I want to perform at a really high level for the next, hopefully, six games. I want something tangible to show for it. The boys have put a brilliant effort in this season to put ourselves in these positions and it would be disappointing to walk away without a cup.
But there’s still good teams left and teams we have struggled to beat this season. But at the same time we have given every team left in it a game this season and shown we can beat them on our day. We have belief we can do it. It’s now about actually doing it rather than talking about it.
Q. You have struggled against Motherwell at times this season but are you more confident this time?
A. The last game we were in great form but lost 2-0. Even earlier in the season we were unbeaten in five, I think, but drew 0-0. They are a good team and if they turn up and play well it’s going to be difficult. But we know if we work as hard as them if not harder and reach our levels it will see us through. It’s a massive opportunity to try and right our wrongs.