'I know he gets a little bit of stick' - Scots' chief defends Hanley
- Credit: PA
Scotland coach Steve Clarke is urging some of the Tartan Army to lay off Norwich City captain Grant Hanley on the eve of Friday's titanic Euro2020 tie against England at Wembley.
Hanley has emerged as a key figure for Clarke after a superb club season in leading the Canaries to the Championship title and a Premier League return.
But the centre back was beaten in the air by Patrik Schick for the opening Czech Republic goal in Monday's 2-0 defeat, that raises the stakes at Wembley in Friday's Group D derby.
Clarke, however, is a huge fan of the powerhouse defender.
“I still thought we defended quite well. Even in the second-half, I thought Grant Hanley was outstanding," he said. "I know he gets a little bit of stick off certain members of the Tartan Army or whatever. But I thought he was excellent for us. It was great to see. We defended reasonably well.
"I am proud to be the head coach of Scotland, I am proud to lead this group of players and hopefully they can make us all smile at the end of the game.
"I have spent a long part of my life in England, never mind my football playing and coaching career. I have good memories down here, lots of good friends, but on the night I want Scotland to win desperately.
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"We have good professionals in the squad, they are used to playing in big matches. Big players want to play in big games and they don't come much bigger than this one. We will go out here and try to get on the front foot as early as possible, try to get hold of the ball.
"The players will try and make themselves feel comfortable on the pitch, and if we can get off to a quick start it will be good for us."
Hanley himself insisted after that Czech defeat earlier in the week a game against the English offers the perfect way to respond.
“We’re playing England at Wembley in the Euros. So what more motivation do you need? It’s definitely a game we’re looking forward to," he said. "It’s a quick turnaround for the England game now, but that’s tournament football. We’ve got to take the positives. There are plenty of positives to take.
"That will be the outlook, keep looking to improve and keep looking to get better."