We thought that 25 year-old Scottish International Grant Hanley would be more of a fixture in the Newcastle first team then he’s turned out to be this season.
But on Saturday at Birmingham he got a full game and played in a new 3-5-2 system that Rafa devised that had both Daryl Murphy and Aleksandar Mitrovic up front.
We know Mitro was stretchered off after only 5 minutes after we had gone ahead in the game through Daryl Murphy’s first goal for the club, but the good news is that his knee injury is not as bad as first thought.
Grant Hanley in action for Newcastle
But that substitution is not what Newcastle wanted to make so early in the game, after Rafa had started a number of players who had played very few minutes this season.
We played well for the first 30 minutes of the game but then as seems to happen far too often these days – the other side came back into the game and equalized just before the half.
Birmingham then had the better chances in that second half and could have even won it.
But they didn’t and we are still in the pot for the fourth round draw later today.
After the game the 27 times capped Scottish International had this to say on the Newcastle web-site:
“The system was different – it’s not something we’ve really done before – but we felt comfortable,”
“Especially during stages in the first half, we were on top – I don’t know how many balls flew along their six-yard box but we could have put the game to bed early doors.”
“Later on in the game, we went back to a 4-4-2, and it’s all about adapting, and using your brain. The manager is very thorough in the way he wants us to play.”
“We’re still in the competition, and we still have a chance to move forward.”
“It was always going to be difficult – there were a lot of changes, and there were a number of lads who haven’t played a lot of football trying to go out there and impress.”
“It’s still positive. And hopefully at home, we can get a win and move on.”
“The team have done so well this year, and it’s a great place to be and a great place to come in every day. I’m happy to get involved again.”
“The advantage we have is that we have a big squad. When you’ve got cup games, the manager makes changes and the lads who haven’t been playing have a point to prove, so it’s good for everybody all round,”
“We feel we have a strong squad – strong enough to challenge in any competition we play in. Cup games are big for us – it’s a chance to impress and compete for a place in the next stage of a competition.”
Hanley played in the 6-0 drubbing of Preston North End in the League Cup back on October 25th, but since then he has been injured which has restricted him to just one sub appearance for the side.
But Hanley has definite leadership skills and while he must be disappointed at the small number of game he’s had this season he’s still seems positive and upbeat about the future at the club.
That’s very good.