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Hanley reflects on 50 caps as he feared ACL injury would ruin Scotland future

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“It’s a very proud moment,” he said. “To reach that milestone has obviously taken a long time and a lot of hard work. A lot of sacrifice has gone into it. I think maybe in years to come looking back, it’s probably one you’ll reflect on more. But for myself and my family a very proud moment.”

His first taste of action for the national team came against Wales in the Carling Nations Cup on 25 May 2011. Scotland triumphed 3-1 winners at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium that day with Hanley appearing as an 84th minute sub for Gary Caldwell. 

The commanding defender has come a long way during the 13 years that have passed since then. 

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“The first cap was against Wales in Ireland at the Aviva,” he explained. “I remember coming off the bench for the last few minutes. Nerves? I can’t remember to be honest.

“I started the next game (a 1-0 defeat to Republic of Ireland) and I was probably more nervous for that. But I was thrown on for that first cap and I’m sure I never knew I was coming on so there was no time for nerves.” 

Hanley is one of Clarke’s most trusted players when fit but the Norwich City star admits the 50-mark did seem unattainable at times throughout his career. 

“I don’t know,” he replied when asked if he expected to represent his country that often. 

“When you’re young and naive you don’t really look that far ahead. You just keep going. As I’ve got older and had periods away from the squad and had injuries, that milestone feels unachievable at times.

“So to be stood here now having played my 50th game for Scotland, I’m over the moon.”

READ MORE: Craig Gordon shares emotional message after reaching 75 Scotland caps

Things haven’t always gone smoothly for Hanley. Sometimes a scapegoat among supporters, he’s had to endure a lot – even going without a call-up between 2018 and 2021. 

“Certainly when I was away from the squad for three years at one point and the last year has been really tough,” he clarified. “There were points in that when I thought I wouldn’t be back in the squad. I’m really grateful to be given that opportunity again.”

Scotland face tournament hosts Germany on Friday in the opening game of the Euros. The world will be eagerly watching the clash and Hanley insists he’s ready to perform if he’s lucky enough to be selected. 

“I feel good,” he continued. “Obviously it’s been a long year, a tough rehab. Achilles rehabs are notorious for not being the most exciting things to do. There are obviously lots of things that can come up along the way.

“I know myself I’m at my best when I’m in a rhythm and I’ve been playing week in-week out.

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“Of course (I’m confident), that’s why I’m here. I’m sure everyone else in the dressing room will tell you the same thing. From my point of view I can take confidence I couldn’t have done anymore and there’s nothing I’d change along the way. I’ve done all the hard work and hopefully that pays.

“It’s only natural, everyone will tell you the more time you spend on the pitch and the more game time you get the better because training is different from games. You need to get your angles and distances and timing. That comes back slowly. The more game time you get the more you get that back.”

Kai Havertz is one player on the German side that Hanley is no stranger to after the pair previously tussled in the English Premier League. 

He acknowledges the Arsenal forward will pose Scotland a real threat but was quick to point out that Julian Nagelsmann’s team have talent in abundance. 

“We will have a focused week of training and make sure we are ready for it,” he stated.

“I played against Kai Havertz in the Premier League but it’s not just one player when you play against nations like this. It’s not just the first XI either. There’s loads to come off the bench too. They will be full of quality, we know that. We will be focused ourselves and be ready to do what we think gives us the best chance of getting a result.”

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