Grant Hanley wants another Scotland moment against Austria after header got him back on international track

Scotland are going to require a big goal from somewhere if they are to get a positive result against Austria on Tuesday night.

Grant Hanley heads home his goal for Scotland against Austria back in March.
Grant Hanley heads home his goal for Scotland against Austria back in March.

Where it comes from doesn’t matter. On these big away nights, against a direct competitor for second spot in Group F of the World Cup qualifiers, it’s all about finding the net.

Grant Hanley, a centre-half, at least has history of scoring against Austria. His bullet header at Hampden earlier in the year got Scotland back on track, earning a 2-2 draw and making sure the Austrians did not steal a march on them. It was a massive step on a road to Scotland redemption for Hanley, who had been out of the reckoning due to injury and form. Now the 29-year-old appears to be one of the key components in Scotland’s rearguard.

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Back on the Scotland stage

“That was a big night for me,” Hanley recalled of his goal against Austria. “I've said before how much I value and appreciate playing for Scotland.

“I'm always grateful to get the opportunity to represent my country.

“Having three years out of the squad was tough so it was big for me to get back in first and foremost.

“Then to get the nod from the boss to start against Austria was massive. I was delighted to score the goal at an important time to get us back in the game.

“It's always nice to get the odd one to help out the boys.

“It was a big night in my career and one I'll remember for a long time, especially after getting myself back involved after so long out.”

I want more goals

Hanley’s improvement as a defender is key to see. He has matured in the position and, now back in the English Premier League with Norwich, is up against a lot of the world’s best strikers week-in, week-out. But while keeping the ball out of the next is his primary concern, he wants more goals.

“I definitely think I should score more,” continued Hanley. “It's something I've always tried to improve in my career. I've always felt I should get more goals.

“I get first contact on a lot of set plays and it's up to me to direct that contact towards the goal.

“It's an important part of being a defender now. And successful teams always have centre-halves who chip in with their fair share of goals.

“All the backline boys will feel the same – it's important for us to be part of the attack as well whether that's from a set-piece or moving up the pitch and getting an assist or goal.”

Showing belief

Vienna would be as good a place as any to add to his two goals in 38 caps for his country. Scotland are in need of a big result on the road, and Hanley knows what ingredients are needed to provide it.

“First of all, you need to be professional and prepare properly, which we always do with Scotland,” said Hanley.

“We're always properly set up with a game plan based on how we expect the game to go and geared towards us getting a result.

“That's a big part of it, the preparation that goes into it. But ultimately, it's about believing in what you're doing.

“Believing that you have the quality to go and get that big result.

“No-one has ever got a big away result when they've gone into doubting themselves.

“You've got to have that belief and we should have plenty of confidence in the squad. We've got quality players who are capable of doing it.”

Difficulties at Norwich

It’s been a tumultuous start to the 2021/22 campaign for Hanley, whose Norwich pre-season was interrupted by injury and Covid-19. Nevertheless, he feels close to peak condition.

“I missed a lot of pre-season. In fact, it couldn't really have gone any worse for me,” said Hanley/

“Obviously, I had the injury I picked up against Croatia at the Euros so I missed the first couple of weeks training.

“I did my rehab, got back into team training and there was a pre-season camp planned where there was going to be two or three games.

“That would have been ideal but just before we were due to go, we had a Covid outbreak at the club.

“So the camp was cancelled and then I tested positive myself. So I had another ten days in the house which wasn't ideal.

“So I missed all the games and only came out of isolation on the Tuesday before the first Premier League game against Liverpool on the Saturday.

“What a baptism for me! But I've picked up a lot of experience along the way and learned how to deal with these situations.

“Physically, I made sure I was as ready as I possibly could be. And mentally I knew what those games would take.

“I'm coming off the back of that now and I've got the match sharpness back.”

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