'Euro 2024 clock is ticking': Scotland injuries cast shadow with number of players missing

Hanley and joins Hickey and Co on sidelines as Carver discusses state of play on certain players

John Carver has admitted time is getting shorter with Scotland facing fitness issues over several key players prior to this summer’s European Championship finals.

Defender Grant Hanley was set to reach the 50-cap mark over the next two friendlies against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland. However, the 32-year-old has remained at Norwich City rather than be reunited with the Scotland squad after picking up an ankle injury. Hanley won his 48th cap in the memorable win over Spain nearly a year ago but has not played for Scotland since due to an Achilles problem.

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The latest setback is a blow for someone who could be considered a certain starter if fit. “The most important thing is that he gets himself fit and playing again,” said Carver, the Scotland assistant manager. “I mean, Norwich are coming to the part of the season where they could get promotion, there’s some big games coming up. It’s important he gets himself fit and if he’s fit and playing then obviously Steve (Clarke) will consider whether or not he’s in the (Euro 2024) squad.”

Scott McKenna's condition was being assessed on Tuesday.Scott McKenna's condition was being assessed on Tuesday.
Scott McKenna's condition was being assessed on Tuesday.

More imminently, Hanley’s physical qualities will be missed against a tall target man such as on-loan TSG Hoffenheim forward Wout Weghorst, who could line up against Scotland for the Netherlands on Friday at the Amsterdam Arena. Hanley’s withdrawal has left Scotland with Scott McKenna, Jack Hendry, Liam Cooper, Ryan Porteous and John Souttar as centre-half options. McKenna, however, missed training yesterday with an injury issue.

“He (McKenna) has gone from no football at Nottingham Forest to getting the chance to play in the Champions League,” explained Carver. “He has played six or seven games over a short period of time and that’s going to affect you. It was disappointing when we heard he had a little bit of an issue, but I don’t think we will bring anybody else in because I think we have enough in the group. Scott McTominay can play at the back, Kenny McLean has been playing centre back for Norwich City and Kieran Tierney is back in. We have Porteous, Jack Hendry, Liam Cooper, so we’ve got enough people in that position for the two games.”

Hanley joins Celtic skipper Callum McGregor, Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack and, perhaps most worryingly of all, Aaron Hickey on the sidelines. McGregor and Jack should be back after the international window but Hickey has not played for Brentford since October following surgery for a hamstring injury. The versatile full-back is not due to return to training with his teammates until next month.

“They tell me it will be two or three weeks before he joins in with the team again,” said Carver. “We will just have to monitor that situation because Brentford are in control of what is going on. We just have to listen to what they have to say. (SFA Performance Director) Graeme Jones is in constant contact with them to find out what he is doing and where he is. We are hoping that if he is back within two to three weeks and that will give him the chance to get playing before the end of the season. Hopefully he will be fit. The clock is ticking and the time is getting shorter … we are eight or nine weeks away but the good thing is that, if it goes to the end of the season, we have two games (v Gibraltar and Finland) before the Euros start. There is still a bit of time at the end of the season.”