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Scotland: Belief is back, says Grant Hanley

Grant Hanley vies with United States' Jozy Altidore on Friday. Picture: Getty

Grant Hanley vies with United States' Jozy Altidore on Friday. Picture: Getty

Scotland defender Grant Hanley says belief has finally returned to the Dark Blues squad after the pain of missing out on a World Cup spot.

A wretched start under former boss Craig Levein ultimately cost the nation their place in next year’s finals in Brazil but new manager Gordon Strachan has gone some way to restoring confidence to a timid squad.

After closing out their Group A qualifying campaign with victories over Macedonia and Croatia, the Scots added a respectable goalless draw with the United States to their list of improving results on Friday night.

Now Blackburn defender Hanley - who hopes to win his 12th cap when Strachan’s men travel to Molde to take on Norway on Tuesday - says the doubts that once plagued the side are gone and the team really believes it can compete on the international stage.

He told Press Association Sport: “We need to head to Norway and hope we can keep our wee run going. It’s all about momentum as we prepare for the next European Championship campaign.

“I think there is a difference in the mood in the camp from a few months ago. Before when we went into these games like Croatia away, we had nothing to lose. We were always positive but that’s not the same as believing you will win.

“But now that we are on the back of a wee run and our performances have picked up, we can take a bit of confidence into the games.”

Friday’s stalemate at Hampden was not the most memorable of encounters but the Tartan Army can be encouraged by the competent showing Scotland put on against a side ranked 13th in the world.

“We’re happy to get the clean sheet,” said Hanley. “That is our job as defenders first and foremost. It was just unfortunate that we couldn’t take any of the chances we created.

“We would have liked a wee win to carry on our good run but we can still take the positives from the game with the US.

“If you get a clean sheet you can’t lose the game so that is something to look back on with satisfaction and now we can move forward towards the Norway match.”

Hanley was paired with Gordon Greer at the heart of the Scots defence as the Brighton man collected his first cap.

But the Dumfries-born 21-year-old says he is only now starting to feel comfortable in a Scotland jersey, 18 months after making his international debut against Northern Ireland.

He said: “Friday was the first time Gordon and I have played together in a match but we have trained alongside one another a few times as we have both been away together on a few trips with the national squad.

“So it’s wasn’t as if we were thrown in together for the first time. I enjoyed it and it was good to get a clean sheet.

“The more I play at this level the more confident I get and the more I grow into it. The more I play, it can only help me, and I feel good now.

“But my job as a centre-half is pretty simple - I just need to keep the ball out of the net. For me it’s just about keeping my place in the team and ensuring the consistency in my game carries on.”

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