GRANT Hanley already seems to be part of the furniture in Gordon Strachan’s Scotland team, having played in seven of the manager’s eight games so far.
The last five of those have seen the young Blackburn Rovers player form a promising central defensive partnership with experienced Norwich City captain Russell Martin, a sequence which has delivered the encouraging performances and results which have provoked talk of a Scotland revival under Strachan.
But Hanley, who will celebrate his 22nd birthday next Wednesday, believes he still has much work to do in order to firmly establish himself as one of Strachan’s first choice stoppers for the start of the Euro 2016 qualification campaign next year.
With Ipswich Town defender Christophe Berra recalled to the squad for tomorrow’s meeting with the USA at Hampden and Tuesday’s trip to Norway, and talk of Cardiff City captain Steven Caulker being wooed by Scotland, competition for places in the heart of the national team’s back four may yet intensify.
“I still don’t really consider myself to be part of the team,” said Hanley. “I’m still young and I’m just looking to get some consistency into my game.
“I would welcome Steven Caulker into the squad. You’ve got to be positive if quality is being added to the squad. He’s still young, too, but he has a lot of experience.
“It’s a massive thing to have good partnerships in the team but especially in the centre of the defence. Personally, it’s helped me just to have a wee run in the team and it just so happens that Russell has played beside me in every one of those games. That’s also helped and I’ve enjoyed it.
“Russell’s more experienced than I am so it’s good for me to have him there because I’m still young and still learning. He’s been good for me. However, I don’t believe that we’re the established pairing for the next few years. As soon as you start thinking like that you’re in trouble.
“If we get complacent and start thinking that those positions are ours, that’s when we’ll lose them so we’ll take it one game at a time.”
That next game against an American side gearing up for next summer’s World Cup finals promises to be a serious test for Scotland as they look to retain the feelgood factor engendered by their own positive ending to a largely dismal qualification campaign for Brazil 2014.
“I think it’s important to maintain the momentum that we’ve built up,” added Hanley. “Obviously, we finished the last campaign strongly but we can’t rest on our laurels. As a result, we want to put in another two positive performances in these games as we prepare for the Euros.
“We know it’ll be hard against the USA. They are a strong squad with a lot of talent.”