LEE JOHNSON insists the Hibernian board must offer Ryan Porteous a deal that reflects his value after conceding that that the Scotland defender has been underpaid for years.
A meeting with 23-year-old’s agents is scheduled for next week and Porteous is in a strong negotiating position after excelling on his Scotland debut against Ukraine on Tuesday.
The centre back is in the final year of his contract and will have attracted more admirers on the back of helping keep a clean sheet as Scotland sealed top spot in UEFA Nations League Group B1.
Manager Johnson has made it clear that Hibs now have to put terms on the table that match the player’s importance to the team.
Johnson said: “We’ll have to offer him a very strong deal, he has been at the club a long time, potentially hasn’t been - in my opinion, bumped up quick enough to maintain the importance of the players.
“That’s where we’ve put ourselves at risk a little bit and have to try and remedy that.
“If someone has come and bought you, then everybody wins and that’s what we’re trying to get to the point that we don’t want Hibs to lose out through maybe not planning as well as we could have two, three, four, five, six years ago.”
Asked if he would plead with the club to do all they can to keep Porteous, Johnson added: “Of course, absolutely. "He deserves it. We want players who have done well, getting international honours - we don’t want to undercut them.
“We want to show the academy this is what you can do and earn as long as you’ve produced for the football club. Ryan is right at the top end of that.”
Hibs run the risk of losing their academy graduate at the end of the season for nothing but Johnson insists it could also stand Porteous in good stead if a team shells out a transfer fee for him.
He added: “I’ve been there as a player, I’ve been up here playing and had clubs come in for me when I was down south. Is the grass always greener?
“Will you be on big money but then not get the opportunity?
“I always think if you are playing well, an indispensable member of the team, if someone wants you it’s always better for someone to come and get you and spend big on you because they are actually almost obliged to play you from the start.
“You go somewhere on a Bosman and it’s not quite the same.”
Johnson’s side travel to Ross County tomorrow looking to build on back-to-back Premiership wins over Kilmarnock and Aberdeen.
And Johnson could be boosted by the return of forward Kyle Magennis following a year on the sidelines due to injury torment.
The likes of Scotland striker Kevin Nisbet and Aidan McGeady have also returned to light training but are not expected to return any time soon.
Johnson added: “Kyle has had a few injuries but he has some great attributes and they are quite unique.
“We don’t have a player similar to that in terms of dynamism, he scored a fantastic goal behind closed door game.
“He played a one-two, skipped past someone and smacked it 25-yards into the net.
“It’s those moments our midfield could always benefit from, whether it is from the bench or the start.”