Norwich City captain Grant Hanley has spoken about the 2020-21 Championship title-winning season and has given his thoughts on the club’s position going into the Premier League as well as looking forward to, potentially, representing Scotland at EURO 2020.
You can watch the interview in full right here, or alternatively read the transcript below.
canaries.co.uk: Grant, it has been a massively successful season for the team. What does it mean to you to be captain of such an historic Norwich City team?
GH: For me personally, it has been a really proud season. Just to be part of it, because the club means so much to everybody here.
canaries.co.uk: What do you feel have been the key ingredients to the success this season?
GH: It is tough to answer that. It is tough to really put your finger on it. I think the lads, their attitude and how we have approached it – the mentality that we have had going to each and every week. We know that, if we turn up with the right attitude then we have got a good chance and we have kept that going. We have had periods of the season where we have gone on runs and won four, five, six or nine games on the trot. Most of those runs came after we had a little set back, so I think that shows the character that is in the group.
canaries.co.uk: Not many teams after relegation bounce back as champions of the Championship, so how impressive is that shift in mindset, going from losing many games last season to winning 29 games this season?
GH: Yes, it is difficult. Sometimes that is the hardest part, that shift in the mindset from being underdogs every week knowing that it is going to be a struggle to pick up points to the pressure being on you because you are the favourites every week. It is tough to change that mindset. I think the lads have done really well and if you go right back to the start of the season, we have got it right in the fact that there is no egos in the dressing room. I think the lads have all been on the same page and have all been pulling in the same direction. That is a big part in being successful.
canaries.co.uk: It is clear that we have tightened up defensively. When you look at the last time, we went up it was very much a case of you score three, we will score four, in a few of the games, but definitely this season it has been a lot tighter defensively. What would you put that down to?
GH: Well, I think most of the lads have been here for a bit longer, they have played together for a bit longer. I think that helps because we are always learning, we are always looking to improve. You know what the boss demands of us, and I think that is a big part of it. I think the lads that have come in, as well, have made a difference. Obviously Gibbo (Ben Gibson) has done really well when he has played. Skippy (Oliver Skipp) as well. He has played every game, hasn’t he and he has brought a different side to that defensive midfield role. I think he has been outstanding, so there are a number of things and as a centre back your defensive record it what you pride yourself on and we are happy with how it has gone. However, there are games and goals where we could have done better so we will keep looking to improve.
canaries.co.uk: Going forward as well, this team is renowned for its attacking flair and goals and chances we create. What can you say about the stuff that the lads are showing at the top end of the pitch?
GH: I think we know that as well, and that is why it has been important to get the defensive side of it right because the quality we have got at the top end of the pitch is really top quality. We know we can hurt teams and we know that we are always going to create chances and often enough the lads will take them. It is nice to have that in your side when you are out there on a Saturday, or whenever it is, and you can see that quality that you have got going forward. I think it makes a difference.
canaries.co.uk: You have mentioned him already, but this season Ben Gibson has come in and the bulk of your performances have been alongside him as part of the back two, what can you say about his influence on and off the pitch because a lot of people have said how important he is off the pitch as well in terms of getting the right mindset into the lads as well?
GH: He has definitely been a massive addition to the dressing room as well, having that experience. He is a British lad who has played a lot of games in the Championship, and he knows exactly what it is about. He is a leader. He has obviously been captain at previous clubs, and he has got that authority to lead by example and I think he has been outstanding. He has got a lot of credit and it has been deserved. He has played a massive part for us this season.
canaries.co.uk: And the last few games you have played alongside Andrew Omobamidele, a lad who has come through our academy system and from the outside looking in as looked very comfortable in a back two alongside you, what have you made of how he has settled in and what is he like off the pitch?
GH: It is tough, because young lads come in and train with you and it is always difficult to judge them until you see them on the big pitch, until you see them on a matchday. Sometimes lads will come in and train with you and you will think they are worldie but then you get them on the big pitch, and they get lost a little bit, but having said that other lads have been the complete opposite. Lads that don’t look unbelievable in training but then you get them on the big pitch on a Saturday and it is 11 v 11 and they really come into their own. I think Andrew has done unbelievably well, considering his age and considering he got thrown in a little bit because of injuries. What has really impressed me has been his temperament and I think I have said it before about the young lads here. I don’t know what they do or how they do it, but they always seem so calm and composed and ready to take their chance when it comes along. I think he has done that, and at such a young age. He has definitely got a bright future ahead of him.
canaries.co.uk: Do you think it has helped Andrew in the fact that you have got other players who have come through the academy in the team. When you look at Max (Aarons) and how he has settled in, and he has gone on to make a 100 plus appearances, and then Todd (Cantwell) at the other end of the pitch. Do you think it has helped Andrew in terms of settling into Championship football?
GH: Yes, I think so. Obviously, that is part of the club and part of what happens here. If the young lads do well then, they will get a chance. It helps as well having lads here that he knows in the dressing room, but I go back to what I said before that there are no egos in the dressing room, everybody is working together and pulling in the same direction and that is a big part of it. When Andrew trained with us, for however long it was, and got himself into our dressing room, he was part of the group, and he was part of working hard together to improve and he showed that on the pitch.
canaries.co.uk: And on a personal level for yourself, it is the most appearances you have made in a season since 2015/16, so given that the last couple of seasons have been interrupted by injuries quite a bit, you must be delighted with how minutes you have got and the consistent run of games?
GH: Yes, definitely. For me, that is what I have been looking for the last couple of years to get in the team and play every week, really. Being a captain, you want to be on the pitch with the lads. You want to be, sort of, pulling your weight so it has definitely been a good season for me personally to be on the pitch as much and to get a good run of games. I think, especially, as a centre half a lot of your games are on timing, positioning and reading the game and that only comes with playing games, so that has helped me massively, to get that run of games in and find a level of consistency with performances as well.
canaries.co.uk: You got second place in the player of the season vote as well, you must be delighted with where you game is at going into having another crack at the Premier League.
GH: Yes, definitely. I always believed in myself, in terms of if I got a run of games that I could get back to a decent level of performance. So I am happy with this season and I have given myself another crack at playing in the Premier League, so I am happy.
canaries.co.uk: There are a lot of lads who were involved in the Premier League before and suffered the disappointment of getting relegated. Do you sense already that there is that hunger in the dressing room and that already the lads are looking forward to next season and proving the doubters wrong and showing that we have got the capabilities to stay there next season?
GH: I think the hunger is always there. I think the lads will always be hungry, but I think this time around we have, maybe, got a bit more experience with the club as a whole, but especially the lads that are on the pitch. Before we did have a lot of young lads who, for them, it was their first time playing in the Premier League. I think that will definitely help and we will definitely be better equipped this time around.
canaries.co.uk: It could be a potentially and exciting summer for yourself with potential inclusion in the Scotland squad for Euro 2020. It could be an historic summer because Scotland haven’t been involved in a major tournament for quite a while, so for you to be involved in that it must give you a lot of excitement going into it.
GH: Of course, it has been frustrating for me over the last two or three years not playing for Scotland because I feel like if I had been fit, I would have been involved a lot more, but it wasn’t to be and that is the way football is. It is the way football works sometimes. It was really pleasing the last international break to get away and to get some game time leading into the Euros in the summer. Hopefully, I can be involved and be part of that. I am really looking forward to it and it is a massive thing for the country as a whole because it has been so long since we have been here, so it is a chance for the lads to go and do ourselves proud.
canaries.co.uk: Going into that last international break, it was your first appearance, for Scotland, since 2018. Did you sense any difference in the atmosphere around the group, because the international break before that they sealed qualification for the Euros?
GH: Yes, since the last time I was involved, I think the setup as a whole has improved. It is little things that people probably don’t even think about, such as facilities, the food, the travel. Things like that make a massive difference and things like that I have improved. And, obviously, the lads are doing well so there is going to be a better atmosphere. I know most of the lads anyway, from games away in the past, but it looks good at the minute and the lads have done really well to qualify for a major tournament, so they deserve it.
canaries.co.uk: It is a while until the squad is announced, but do you feel you have put yourself in the best possible position to get a call up, given how successful you have been this season?
GH: I know myself that if I am playing at club level, and I am playing consistently, then I have got a good chance of getting called up, so fingers crossed.
canaries.co.uk: Are you looking forward to a little break between now and then though and resting up, because it has been a very intense season?
GH: Yes, I think we have got a couple of weeks before we meet up for a pre-camp, so I will give myself four or five days to relax and then get back at it so I am ready to go for the Euros and then, hopefully, the boss will give me a bit of time after that.