The £200m Harry Kane test that renascent Scotland defender Grant Hanley passed at Wembley
And the 29-year-old’s assurance at Wembley suggests there are 200 reasons why the Tartan Army have been wrong about a central defender who has never been a favourite among them. Perceptions will be flipped forever if he can help Steve Clarke’s men to the victory over Croatia in their Group D closer on Tuesday to surely propel the nation to the knock-out stages of a major finals for the first time.
Hanley is unlikely to be a favourite of Harry Kane any time soon, though. The Norwich City man completely negated the threat of the England captain. Kane may have been touted for a £200m move from Tottenham Hotspur this summer for his predatory instincts but the purpose and pace of the Scotland pivot drew any sting from him.
“Because he [Kane] was playing centre-forward and I was middle of our back three that was always going to be the match-up,” said Hanely, before modestly sharing around the credit for clamping Kane. “But overall, as a team, we made it really difficult for them. We nullified the amount of chances they had. That was the game-plan.
“And the biggest positive was that we actually played football as well. There were periods where we controlled it. And we had to do that because if we'd have sat in and tried to defend our goal – we'd have been under pressure all night. We know we've got quality in the team and everyone stepped up on Friday night. We performed well and to get a point against one of the favourites was great.
“I was pleased with how I played. When you play at the top level, first of all, everyone's an athlete. If they're not quicker than you, they're stronger than you. So you need to make sure you're in the right position at all times. And a big part of that is concentration. Mentally, you need to be so switched on for the full 95 minutes because if you give players like that a sniff, more often than not it's a goal. That's a big part of going up against the best players in the world.”
The English punditerati sought to frame the success of Hanley and co as merely a reflection on how Kane and his cohort performed. The Scotland man, three years in the international wilderness before returning to the Scotland side in March, refuses to be miffed by such condescension.
“First of all, we couldn't care less what they say. It's all about us,” he said. “The real truth is within this camp, among the boys and the management staff. We know exactly how to look at ourselves properly and judge our performance. We're happy with the point but we've got a quick turnaround now before a massive game on Tuesday. We didn't get too low after Czech Republic [beat us 2-0 on Tuesday] and we won't get too high after this. It's important to keep a lid on it and stay level. We need to recover quickly now and get ready to go again. We're up against a top side on Tuesday and obviously need a result.”
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