Canaries captain sure to be fired up for chance to face former club Newcastle
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
There’s no doubting that Grant Hanley will be fired up for Norwich City’s next match, against one of his former clubs, Newcastle United. It could well prove a pivotal day in his Canaries career.
The centre-back has received his fair share of criticism since City's 4-1 loss at Liverpool on the opening night of the Premier League season, when his own goal in just the seventh minute sparked a surge into a 4-0 lead before half-time from the European champions.
Divock Origi had beaten Max Aarons on the right and blasted a low cross into the box which Hanley didn't react too quickly enough, instead seeing the ball cannon off his shin and past Tim Krul. It was a horrible moment, followed by a devastated reaction from the Scot, covering his face with his hands in disbelief that such misfortune had emerged just minutes into the new campaign.
It was a pain which plenty of defenders will be able to relate to, an occupational hazard in their line of work.
Yet there was more to those few seconds of inward frustration for Hanley than just the unfortunate incident which had left him shocked. It was the culmination of an extremely frustrating year for a man who was runner-up in the Player of the Season voting at City in 2018.
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Even that upset reaction of the Norwich skipper became the target for some frustrated fans, questioning whether such outward disruption had a negative influence on the young defenders around him at Anfield.
In practice, there may be an element of truth in that analysis, but in reality it's a lot easier said than done, when such a crushing blow has arrived less than 10 minutes into a new season.
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When you consider that the Scotland international hadn't started a league game in almost a year, you can understand Hanley's disappointment, and perhaps even afford him a bit more time to recover full form and fitness.
With Timm Klose's hip problem ruling the Switzerland centre-back out of the Liverpool game and the final friendly of pre-season, against Toulouse, it could be that the Scot gets a second chance. Were Klose to come straight back in, it would leave doubts about the Scot's long-term future at City though.
Brought in from Newcastle back in August 2017 for a reported £3.5m, after a bit-part role in the Magpies' Championship title success the previous season, Hanley proved a hit.
After initially having to be patient for game-time under Daniel Farke the former Blackburn skipper became a key player and made 32 appearances as the Canaries finished 14th in the second tier - earning added popularity for his lung-busting efforts to set up Klose's late equaliser against Ipswich at Carrow Road.
His reward was the captain's armband but, after a disrupted pre-season, a thigh injury needed treatment last September and Hanley missed three months of last season. That didn't stop sporting director Stuart Webber and Farke from rewarding the 27-year-old with a new contract, until 2023 though.
Announced while the Canaries were in Tampa for warm weather training in November, Hanley told us: "The injuries have been the frustrating part of the season but to get this done I'm really over the moon.
"As soon as I arrived in Norwich everyone has been so welcoming, the club itself has been first class, I felt part of it as soon as I came in, with the fans, the staff, players - and also my girlfriend, they've been great with her as well."
However, just three substitute appearances followed in the league, with an early red card for a poorly timed tackle in an FA Cup third round defeat to lower-level Portsmouth in January adding to the disappointment.
Although Hanley took the lead when it came to lifting the Championship trophy, he watched the majority of the second half of the season from the bench as Christoph Zimmermann and Ben Godfrey formed a fine partnership.
There were rumours of interest from Blackburn in taking the defender back to Ewood Park but sources close to City suggested the player was determined to stay.
However, this pre-season went well and Hanley was ready for action, with Zimmermann ruled out until the end of August after minor knee surgery and Klose unavailable at Liverpool.
It may have been a night to forget for Hanley but measuring his ability against Jurgen Klopp's brilliant team would be a touch unfair, having barely played at all for a year.
It's against Newcastle when we will truly be able to gauge his Premier League prospects.
You suspect City's captain won't be struggling for motivation - if he gets another chance.