Grant Hanley – Scotland’s Defensive Rock

Scott from @thefootyblognet offers up his thoughts on Grant Hanley…

While we all cheered the Stephen O’Donnell redemption story, going from zero to hero after his superb display against England, Grant Hanley’s own triumphant Scotland story arc shouldn’t be forgotten.

The centre-back’s international career now spans a decade, having made his senior debut against Wales in May 2011.

For the majority of that time he’s often been scoffed at and labeled as being a bit of a bomb scare. Mistakes would creep into his game and at times managers didn’t know whether they could trust
him at the back.

But thus far, in my opinion, the twenty-nine year old has been Scotland’s player of the tournament.

People will point to Steve Clarke and state that the Scottish manager has kept things simple with his towering central defender. Sending him out to battle with the words ‘Just defend’ ringing in his ears.

I don’t think that’s all together true.

Yes, Grant has been superb for us defensively. No Scotland player has bettered his average of making at least two successful tackles per game, an even better stat when you consider he’s virtually not conceding fouls in those performances. He’s also getting himself in front of shots and has made around 3.5 clearances (The best of any player to have started both our opening fixtures). According to whoscored.com the Norwich City man is also winning around 6 aerial duels per outing at the Euros too.

After the game against The Czechs, Steve Clarke was quick to praise his defender:

“I still thought we defended quite well. Even in the second-half, I thought Grant Hanley was outstanding,”

“I know he gets a little bit of stick off certain members of the Tartan Army or whatever. But I thought he was excellent for us. It was great to see”

But we’ve seen even more from the Dumfries native than just getting the defensive work done.

He has been one of our leaders.

Against England, in our 0-0 draw, Hanley was in a back three with two unnatural centre-half partners. He was the glue that kept the backline together. His presence allowed Scott McTominay and Kieran Tierney the time and space to build from the back or push forward at the right times. I’m pretty sure the Wembley security team had to ask the big man to empty his pockets before departing back up north, just so he’d give Harry Kane back to Gareth Southgate.

Grant is also one of our most dangerous players in the opposition’s penalty area when it comes to attacking stet-pieces. As already discussed he can dominate in the air and that proves to be important when we send him up for corners and free-kicks. He scored a terrific header against Austria earlier in the year and here’s hoping he can replicate that against Croatia in our vital last group game!

A big plus for this tournament has been the centre-back’s passing. On average in our first two encounters, Grant has made around 50 passes per game. Of those passes, he’s got a passing success rate sitting at over 80%. That would’ve been unheard of eight or nine years ago when we think back to Hanley in a Scotland jersey during his early days.

Grant Hanley has once again lead Norwich City to promotion this season. He’s now established himself at club level and he has managed to bring that form onto the international stage. Hanley
might not be an overnight success story but patience is indeed a virtue and I can’t think of a better time for Grant to peak than with Scotland during their return to a major final.

It must’ve been music to the towering defender’s ears as the Tartan Army taunted England’s Tyrone Mings with a chorus of ‘You’re just a shite Grant Hanley!’. Proving he is now a national hero.

Well done Mr Hanley for coming back and proving a nation wrong!

Guest Writer

A guest writer on SFF