GRANT Hanley last night joined Robert Snodgrass in withdrawing from the Scotland squad for Wednesday’s friendly in Poland.
A calf injury kept Blackburn defender Hanley out of his club’s 4-0 defeat by Bolton on Saturday, while Snodgrass played only the first half of Norwich City’s 4-1 defeat by Aston Villa yesterday.
Snodgrass will now need rest to deal with the muscle problem that has led to his withdrawal from the squad for the midweek match. His place on the plane to Warsaw has been taken by in-form Celtic striker Leigh Griffiths, who scored a hat-trick on Saturday in his team’s 5-0 demolition of Inverness Caledonian Thistle.
Norwich boss Chris Hughton requested the withdrawal of his midfielder on Saturday but, although it was expected that Snodgrass would be able to keep playing while managing his problem, he was replaced at half-time yesterday by Anthony Pilkington. The Canaries were already 4-1 down at the time, having taken an early lead through Wes Hoolahan before a Christian Benteke double put Villa on the road to the three points.
Griffiths, 23, who has four caps, was originally omitted from the squad for the match in Warsaw after national manager Gordon Strachan said he needed more time to settle in at Celtic. Having scored his first goal for his new club at Tynecastle a week earlier, he said after Saturday’s hat-trick that he was delighted to be included in the national set-up again. “I’m buzzing to be back in the Scotland squad,” he said. “Gordon Strachan said I wasn’t in the original squad because I wasn’t playing every week with Wolves and then he wanted to give me time to settle in here. I’ve settled pretty quickly.”
Dundee United’s Andrew Robertson, meanwhile, is in the in the squad for the first time and desperate to make his debut. “It wouldn’t matter to me if it’s just five minutes at the end,” he said.
“I’m still 19 with a career ahead of me. Hopefully I’m pushing to start later in my career. If I get any game time on Wednesday I’ll be happy. I dreamed of this, like everyone else. If you don’t dream then you won’t have any aspirations for the game. Everyone wants to play for their country, though maybe I didn’t expect it to happen this soon.
“The sooner the better, I suppose. I’m happy I’ve been called up and I’m really looking forward to it. I hope I score, though I’ve been on a drought for United.
“It’ll be a massive learning curve for me playing with experienced pros. Darren Fletcher’s a great example. He’s been through everything in the game – injuries, playing at the top of his form with a big club. I think I’ll learn a lot when I’m away, but I’ll enjoy it.”
Robertson gave further proof that his call-up was deserved with a convincing performance in both defence and attack as his club won 3-1 against Hibernian on Friday night. He laid on the final goal for Farid El Alagui after Nadir Ciftci and Gavin Gunning had got the first two for Jackie McNamara’s team.
“Playing for Scotland would mean a lot to me and my family,” he added after that victory. “Every kid wants to play for their country. Most boys want to be a footballer and I’m lucky enough to be one. Hopefully I can be a Scotland internationalist too.”
While Robertson is eager to make his debut, he explained that the members of his family who are making the trip to see the match are determined to enjoy themselves whether he plays or not. “There’s six of the family going over, which is ridiculous. My mum, my dad, my brother, my uncle, and my other aunt and uncle.
“They’re nuts and they’re just going for the day. I think they’re buzzing. They don’t want to miss out in case I do play a part. If I don’t then they’ve not lost out, but if I do play and they’re not there I they won’t be happy.”
Although he has yet to win a first senior cap to add to the three he already has at under-21 level, Robertson’s acquaintance with the national team goes back a long way. All the way back, in fact, to the last time Scotland qualified for the finals of a major tournament - the 1998 World Cup in France.
“My auntie had a big party for the opening game of the 1998 World Cup against Brazil. I vaguely remember that even though I must have been about four. I think I remember more about the actual party! I’ve obviously been to a fair few games as well.”