Grant Hanley: McLeish’s motivational talk will inspire us

Grant Hanley hopes to be included in Scotland's team  to face Costa Rica
Grant Hanley hopes to be included in Scotland's team to face Costa Rica
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Grant Hanley has been involved in three failed qualifying campaigns with a Scotland squad which has become depressingly inured to missing out on major tournament finals.

But the big defender believes returning boss Alex McLeish already has his players brimming with conviction that they can break that cycle by making it to the business end of Euro 2020.

At 6ft 3in, Hanley doesn’t lack stature. When he walked out of McLeish’s welcome meeting with the squad at their Edinburgh base on Sunday night, 
however, the Norwich City man felt ten feet tall.

“He just wanted to get us all together and make sure we know we can achieve something with Scotland,” said Hanley. “He told us we all have the ability and talent to do it. Within that, he explained what he expects from us.

“He spoke to us for about 15 minutes and also showed us a compilation of video footage. It showed some of the good moments Scotland have had down the years, going back in time but more recent stuff as well.

“I think that kind of motivational stuff works. If you watch those moments, it does inspire you. For me personally, that type of thing is always good.

“James McFadden’s goal against France in Paris was included, for example, and stuff like that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

“It’s great for the boys to look at stuff like that. Everyone has to take it their own way but I think the boys will take inspiration from it.”

Former Tartan Army hero McFadden is now back on the Scotland scene as a member of McLeish’s coaching staff and Hanley feels he can play a significant role. “He can definitely add something new and it’s great to add what he brings to being around the squad,” added the 26-year-old.

“Hopefully he can put his views across and help us get to where we want to be. It can be inspirational having a guy like him around. Certainly, for me, when I was growing up he was the kind of guy I watched playing for Scotland.”

McLeish’s appointment signals a fresh opportunity for Hanley who has not started a match for Scotland since the 3-0 defeat by England at Wembley in November 2016. In the second half of the Euro 2018 qualifying campaign under Gordon Strachan, he lost his place in the side as Christophe Berra and Charlie Mulgrew established themselves as the first-choice central defensive pairing.

Hanley was then left out of interim boss Malky Mackay’s squad for last November’s friendly against Netherlands, but he hopes to win his 29th cap against Costa Rica at Hampden on Friday night.

“Personally, I feel good at the moment because I’m back playing regularly again at club level,” he said.

“If you are playing for your club, you are obviously going to have a better chance of playing at international level.

“I was left out of the last squad, which I was gutted about. But I could totally understand why. Now I’m just glad to be back and it’s up to me to train well and show the manager what I can do.

“There are a lot of new faces. The squad is different with a new manager. It’s the start of the build-up to a new campaign and we have to take it that way.

“We have these first couple of friendly games for everyone to get to know each other and for the new manager to put his ideas across. The boys are just excited to get started now.

“It’s another chance for us, it’s a new campaign. It’s a great chance for us to try to get it right this time.

“There’s no magic spell, it’s not about just changing one thing which will suddenly make us start winning games.

“It’s up to the players. The new manager will tell us what he expects from us and it’s up to the players to do that on the park.

“But I do think we need to get that winning mentality together and really focus and push on to win more games.”

Hanley’s international prospects were not helped by his £6 million move from Blackburn Rovers to Newcastle in the summer of 2016 turning sour as he failed to hold down a first-team place at St James’ Park. But he has been revitalised by a £3.5mswitch to Norwich City last August and is now a key player for the Carrow Road club.

“I’ve no regrets about joining Newcastle when I look back on it now,” he added. “You make your decisions and you live by them. It never worked out for me, I didn’t play as much as I would have liked to.

“These things happen in football and it’s just important that you learn from those kind of experiences. Then you move on and make yourself better for it.”