There were lots of gasps of shock around the UK as Grant Hanley bolted back at an electric pace to dispossess the Czech Republic’s Jakub Jankto, halting a potentially dangerous counter-attack.
The Scot’s speed came as no surprise, however, to City fans, who’ve been aware of the attribute – which stands alongside fearsome bravery and aerial prowess as one of his best – for years. Hanley’s pace is a symbol of the widespread ignorance that surrounds him as a player, the ‘old-fashioned centre back’ veil that obscures how clever and effective the City captain can be. His ‘pace’ rating on the football video game FIFA 21 is 54 out of 99.
That the 29-year-old will be the subject of flak, out-jumped by Patrik Schick for the opening goal, is a window into the life of a professional defender. Just before the goal MyFootballWriter columnist Mick Dennis tweeted that Hanley was in “thou shalt not pass mode,” but his performance will likely go down as a poor one merely because of his presence as Schick rose characteristically to head home.
There were several moments that evidenced Hanley’s presence in a Daniel Farke team, his early clip out to Andy Robertson when under pressure followed by a clever Cruyff turn to get out of danger. His priority may to keep the ball out of the Tartan net, but he also starts attacks.
It’s safe to say that such aspects of his game were not so present during Hanley’s time as a Newcastle United player. The image among Scotland fans of the number 5 as a liability also suggests that his home country is yet to catch up with his new-found calmness in possession.
As City legend/rival Paul Lambert highlighted at half time, the Scots needed more thrust and ball progression from their back three. Hanley wasn’t name checked, but any Norwich fan watching knew who that responsibility fell to. Five minutes into the second period, those hopes were dealt a blow.
For the second time in three seasons, a City centre-back was the subject of a perhaps overly enthusiastic tackle from a West Ham player, Vladimir Coufal the offender this time as Hanley went down holding his knee. Attentions in Norfolk immediately turned to what that could mean for Norwich City; the fact that Christoph Zimmermann is still bearing the scars of Sebastian Haller’s dangerous 2019 tackle throbbing in the back of their minds.
A world class Schick goal doubled the Republic’s lead shortly afterwards, but it was encouraging to see Hanley heading away from a similar situation to the opener in the 59th minute. The truth was, however, that Scotland’s hopes died at 2-0.
The struggle of supporting a player at a tournament is that half the time they can’t do anything to change the situation. In the same way that Hanley was unlikely to inspire a great attacking comeback, Teemu Pukki had very little to do with Finland’s smash and grab win in Copenhagen.
It’s difficult to write a piece on a player who’s lost a game but performed well, but then, this is the problem Hanley faces going into 2021/22. He will lose more games than he wins. He will take criticism, a lot of it unjustified.
But that doesn’t bother him. Speaking to the High Performance Podcast, he said; “Fortunately for me, I’ve always known that it’s only really my judgement that really matters to me.”
It may not matter to him anyway, but for City fans, he’ll always remain the fearless warrior, as well as the accomplished ball player, they know he is.
Herr Cutz says
Even the best of players make the occasional mistake, most of the time it costs nothing. But when it costs a goal the player gets slated, however Hanley’s a strong minded man and he didn’t go to pieces. I’m glad he’ll be a central linchpin in our defence for the coming season. I won’t wish him ill for the England game either.
It’s unfair to blame Hanley for the first goal, it was well taken, perhaps they should have worked harder to block the cross.You can’t really blame the defence for the lack of creativity in midfield.They attacked too much down the right where O’Donnell was totally out of his depth.
Even so, they created many more chances than England did the day before.The Czechs look a very strong team,their keeper played well, whereas Croatia were very disappointing.
We are always looking for individuals to blame but I thought Hanley was Scotland’s best player.
Jim Davies says
Yes, Hanley was outjumped by a player who had a run on him, while he was jumping from a standing position. I think it was probably the only time in the match he was beaten in the air. I’ve not seen much criticism of his fellow defender, who attempted a shot from too far out, through a host of players, and got blocked, which led to the opportunity for Schick to show some real opportunist class with his wonderful second goal. Reminiscent of a certain City goal in the FA cup a couple of years ago!
Scotland is victim of its player types what they always product. Its difficult and almost impossible to change playing style when players have similar strengths and weakness, You already know when you look participants and see Scotlands name that they are the team which will try hardest. That playing style of course cause problems to opponents, but it has also its weakness. I dont believe that Scotland could even play differently.
Czech republic is team which has club core, Slavia Praha. Slavia Praha is good team, much better than media and people especially in Britain believe. They beat Leicester and Glasgow Rangers, their game against Arsenal was disaster and very likely reasons behind that was mentally. Czechs dont underestimate their opponents, serbians underestimate very much Scotland and paid rightfully price about that.
This tournament proves nicely that premier league players are nothing special compared to others. Actually they have not been even players who impress, they have been average players in this tournament at least so far. Lewandowski is player who I have to mention, its a player who is so much overrated that its without any sense. People should understand that when striker plays in a team which is was much better than its opponents in bundesliga, striker will get so much scoring chances that its impossible that he would not get very high stats. When he plays for Poland, his stats are completely different. Its not because of his Poland team mates are so bad. World class player means a player who carry team very much no matter which is it and at least he should play better than his team mates.
Keith B says
I thought the Scots looked very much like ourselves in the PL last season. Tight game, lots of promising moments, a lack of cutting edge, an on-form opposition keeper, and finally undone by one classy moment of opportunism.
Colin B says
On the first goal I thought Hanley could have got a foul. He had an elbow in his back that pushed him under the ball.
Two of my grandchildren are Scottish. Their school had the match on. It is a real big deal and their is a lot of pressure on the team to do well.
They created chances and played reasonably well. The Czech goalie had a good game. I thought 2-1 to the Czechs would have been a fair result.