The Highs And Lows Of Football In 90 Minutes
Score in your first start for the national side and you will remember it forever. However. Grant Hanley will other darker memories to forget from the same night
Grant Hanley was on a roller-coaster of emotions on Friday night in his first competitive start for Scotland. Only being named in the starting team on the morning of the game allowed him to stay calm ahead of the first whistle. Forty-five later the Blackburn Rovers defender put Scotland into an unexpected lead in front of an overjoyed family gathering including his mother, father, sister and uncle. That joy proved short-lived and scant consolation to Hanley as Chris Coleman’s side came back from a one-goal set-back for the second time in the qualifying campaign against Scotland. Hardened by his experiences at the coal face of the nPower Championship, Hanley shrugged off the disappointment of Friday night and has set his sights on being part of a collective recovery against Serbia in Novi Sad on Tuesday night. He spoke to the SFA (www.scottishfa.co.uk) and said: "I went from the high of scoring to being really disappointed by the end, to the point where the goal felt irrelevant. To have scored and won the game would have been a great feeling but looking back, even accounting for the bad result, I can still be proud to have scored for my country at Hampden. My family helped me realise that afterwards. It was a strange feeling because they were really proud of me but could see I was disappointed when I went up to see them and tried to cheer me up."Grant Hanley and Kenny Miller watch with joy as the ball heads to the Welsh net (C) Colin Lunn | SportPix.org.uk His goal will long be remembered by his family but for Hanley it will remain tinged with the disappointment of what might have been. He recalled: "I spoke to Gary (Caldwell) inside the box and he told me he was going front post, so my role was to spin off my defender and get to the back post. Nine times out of 10 the ball doesn’t get to you in that situation but the delivery was great, the timing was right and I managed to get on the end of it. We started the game nervously - and I include myself in that - but we weathered the storm and eventually got in front. From then we played well and created some chances ourselves to kill the game."Making it into the staring 11 in Strachan’s first competitive game in charge is a reward for Hanley’s growing stature at Ewood Park. A regular for Blackburn this season, Hanley has confounded the unpredictability which has surrounded the club to thrive in the intense and hotly competitive Championship. All that and he is still eligible to pay for Billy Stark’s Under-21 side.He said: "I only found out I was starting on the morning of the game and didn’t really expect it, to be honest. I have been grateful to have been part of the group since under Craig Levein and have treated it until now as a learning experience; trying to pick up some hints and tips from the boys ahead of me. Playing regularly at Blackburn Rovers has helped a lot and gives you half a chance when you come on international duty. Coming away with Scotland is a great honour, especially being so young. Being part of it and playing week in week out in the Championship – which is one of the hardest leagues around – has been a great experience. There is a huge difference between boys’ football or in the reserves: you are playing with men and you have to mature quickly. I feel I have done that. I played in the Premier League last year and that was terrific but in the Championship we have played Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday for the past five weeks and that is physically and mentally difficult. It is something you have to adjust to and quickly and I feel I have done that."Hanley and his team-mates must now adjust to the challenge of Serbia and their fiercely partisan support in Novi Sad. With the national coach instilling a back-to-basics approach in order to move off the foot of Group A, Hanley has set a fundamental objective for the next chapter of his blossoming international career. He said: "The table doesn’t make good reading but the task now is to improve on our standing and to do that we need to get back to winning games again and rebuild our confidence."
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