Grant Hanley hailed for no nonsense loyalty to the ‘dying art’ of defending

Scotland’s Grant Hanley is part of a dying breed of footballers, according to the man who gave him the opportunity to establish himself as a first team player.

While Dumfries-born Hanley made his breakthrough at Blackburn Rovers under Sam Allardyce, the academy graduate only became a regular after Steve Kean was installed.

Now, Kean describes the 30-year-old, who was named in Steve Clarke’s squad for the upcoming Nations League matches against Ukraine and Republic of Ireland, as one of a dwindling band of out and out defenders.

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"When I first went to Blackburn we had Grant Hanley and Phil Jones in the same age group, they hadn't played for the first team but they came through together,” said the current Hibs academy director.

Scotland's Grant Hanley during the FIFA World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine earlier this year. Photo by Ewan Bootman / SNS Group

Hanley has gone on to play for Newcastle United and Norwich City and accumulated nearly 50 caps for Scotland.

"Grant's had a great career and he's someone I mention whenever I'm speaking to someone about defending. I think it's a dying art. People talk about centre-backs stepping out from the back, breaking lines, and making passes but Grant loves defending. When we used to have him in the team or doing sessions he had a real appetite to be in a duel, that one-v-one, making sure no one got past him.

"I think he's gone on to show, at a very high level, for both club and country that, as a defender, while there are other players who are better with the ball at their feet, he's someone who loves blocking the ball, making tackles, getting headers in; what I would call the basics of top defending, he has that in abundance."

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