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John Carver concerned by Grant Hanley condition as defender leaves Scotland camp

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 19 Mar 2024

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John Carver admitted Grant Hanley’s lack of recent game time for Scotland is a concern but he remains hopeful that the injury-plagued Norwich defender can prove his fitness in time for the European Championship.

The 32-year-old was due to join up with the squad this month for the first time in a year after recovering from an Achilles problem that sidelined him from April to December last year.

Having made nine appearances since returning to action on Boxing Day, however, Hanley withdrew on Tuesday from the Scotland squad for the upcoming friendlies against the Netherlands and Northern Ireland after missing the last two Norwich matches with an ankle injury that forced him off against Middlesbrough earlier this month.

Canaries boss David Wagner said he felt Hanley had not been “as explosive and sharp” as he was prior to his eight-month injury lay-off and that it had been agreed “to pull him out of team training and give him a proper individual programme in the next couple of weeks, or how long it will take, to get back to that level”.

Hanley was a Scotland mainstay before he got injured last Easter, but he has not played for the national team since the win at home to Spain last March.

“It is a concern because he’s one of our squad,” said Carver on Tuesday afternoon. “But it’s up to Grant to get fit again and make sure he’s OK.

“That’s one of the reasons he’s stayed behind to work with the people at Norwich. It’s important he’s in good condition.

“If he gets himself fit and starts playing again, there’s no reason why he can’t get back into this squad.”

Centre-back Scott McKenna was yesterday being assessed by national-team medics after picking up a knock playing for Copenhagen, while key duo Callum McGregor and Aaron Hickey were not named in the squad as they recover from their respective injuries.

Brentford wing-back Hickey has been sidelined since late October with a hamstring problem and, like Hanley, appears to be in a race against time to be fit.

“They’re saying he could be around two or three weeks before he’s back training with Brentford, so we’re waiting for that final medical report to find out where he is,” said Carver.

“You’ve got that situation with Aaron but there are other players too. It’s a difficult time for everyone because they’re all coming towards the end of their seasons with their clubs, playing competitive games, and we’ve just got to keep our fingers crossed that we don’t have too many injuries going into the championships.”

Scotland have selected four goalkeepers – Hearts pair Craig Gordon and Zander Clark plus Norwich’s Angus Gunn and Motherwell’s Liam Kelly – for this month’s double-header but Carver refused to divulge how game time will be carved up among the quartet, with one of them set to miss out on the final Euros squad.

“That will be down to Steve and who he selects but what it (having four keepers) has added is a huge amount of competitiveness,” he said.

“We saw that yesterday in training because every single one of them was right on it.

“Normally the first day they ease their way in but we had a small-sided game towards the end of training and the four goalkeepers were outstanding.”

Carver has been impressed with the way Hearts forward Lawrence Shankland has played his way into contention after being called up as a late replacement for Che Adams in November. Since then, the 28-year-old has scored a stoppage-time equaliser in Georgia plus 17 more goals for his club.

“I think he’s been great,” said Carver. “I’ve watched quite a bit of Hearts lately. He just gets himself in the right areas. People talk about, ‘he doesn’t do this, he doesn’t do that’, but he scores goals and they’re worth their weight in gold.”

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