Break will do us good, says Hanley
Written by Tom Easterby
Newcastle United defender Grant Hanley believes the international break will allow Rafa Benitez’s side to go into the end-of-season run-in with renewed energy and focus.
Hanley was forced to withdraw from the Scotland squad earlier this week with an ankle problem, after starting last Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Birmingham City.
The 25-year-old is among a number of Magpies players who will remain on Tyneside during the two-week hiatus from Sky Bet Championship action.
And he believes the break will do his side good as they get set for a crucial, hectic seven-game stretch over April.
“It gives us a chance to regroup, get on the training ground and then for the lads to have a wee break,” the former Blackburn Rovers centre half told nufc.co.uk.
“We’ve got a month and a bit when we get back to get fully focused and everybody knows what the goal is – it’s promotion. It’s a massive month in the season for us.
“We’re getting to the business end of the season, and it might give people a bit of time to get back from injuries and things like that as well.
"But we can’t look too far in front of ourselves. We can only look at the next game, and we’ll just be playing for three points every week. That’s the target.”
Hanley partnered captain Jamaal Lascelles at the heart of the United defence at St. Andrew’s last weekend, making his first start since the 1-0 win over Derby County at the start of February.
He helped keep the Blues out in what was a resolute display, and he says that it was a good feeling to have made his mark having come in for the injured Ciaran Clark.
“It’s nice. Personally for me, it’s been tough to get in because the lads have been doing so well; the lads in my position at the club are top drawer, and up there with the best if not the best in the league. It’s tough to get in the team,” said Hanley.
“But I think the most important thing here is that the lads are pushing in the right direction. Whatever 11 is picked, the lads that are on the bench or in the squad are well behind them. It was nice to get a run out, and nice to keep a clean sheet as well.”
Hanley has had to be patient since his summer arrival, with Clark in consistently fine form alongside skipper Lascelles at the back.
But he says that while the competition throughout the team means everyone is always in a fight to keep their place, it’s a squad that are all pulling together to reach the same goal.
“It’s been like that throughout the season – not just for me, but for a number of lads. I’m sure there are a number of lads who are in a very similar position to me,” he said.
“Everybody’s in the same situation, everyone wants each other to do well because we know that the end goal is promotion.
“It’s a big thing as well because competition for places is so high that it brings the best out of everybody. It’s only a positive for the team.”
“We’ve got a month and a bit when we get back to get fully focused and everybody knows what the goal is – it’s promotion. It’s a massive month in the season for us."