Hibs defender determined to make most of Scotland call-up amid reported Blackburn Rovers interest



Hibs defender Paul Hanlon admits he is determined to make the most of Scotland’s changing of the guard after being handed a maiden call-up.

The 27-year-old was among eight uncapped players named in caretaker boss Malky Mackay’s squad for next month’s friendly clash against Holland at Pittodrie.

The likes of Hanlon’s ex-Hibs colleague Jason Cummings, Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack and Aberdeen pair Ryan Christie and Graeme Shinnie are also desperate to make their international bow on November 9.

Hanlon has Scotland Under-21 caps

After conceding that playing in the Championship for three years damaged his Scotland hopes, Hanlon is now keen to lay down a marker for the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign.

Hanlon said: “I only found out after training. The gaffer (Neil Lennon) just came in and told me in the changing room.

“Even when he said it I wasn’t too sure to be honest but I’m delighted – surprised as well but I’m excited.

“Most of the boys were there so they were congratulating me and stuff and yeah, it was great.

“Honestly I didn’t think I would have a chance. A lot of people, mainly team-mates, seemed to be talking about it and saying I probably had a chance but it wasn’t something I thought about too much.

“Now that it’s happened I want to grab the opportunity with both hands.

“There is going to be a lot of us in there that are wanting to try and prove that we should have been there a while ago. 

“There have been a lot of players who have been knocking and not quite made it in the squad so this is a chance to prove that you deserve to be there. 

“I think that once you do well you’ve got a chance to get a few caps under your belt. 

“It could be a new era for a lot of younger players pushing up. 

“I’m not the youngest there now but for the young ones who are pushing in it is their chance to cement a place in the squad and be there for a number of campaigns.”

Hanlon, who has joined Hibs midfielder John McGinn in the squad, is looking forward to being reunited with Nottingham Forest striker Cummings for Scotland and reckons they are now both benefiting from playing at a higher level.

He said: “I think playing in the Championship hampered my chances a wee bit playing there for three years.

“And I think that was the same for Jason. He was banging in the goals for us and it’s one of them, ‘he’s playing in the Championship’. 

“But at the end of the day, you have to put the ball in the net and he was doing it every game basically. 

“Him moving down, he’s not been as prolific as what he was up here but playing at that level every week, he is only going to improve as a player and I’m delighted for him as well because he’s come from boys’ club football not so long ago. 

“And to now be in the Scotland squad is just an incredible rise for him. I’m delighted for him.

“I’ve actually not spoken to him in a while but we definitely miss him in and around our changing room, it’s a wee bit quieter.”

Hanlon, who is eyeing a victory in tonight’s clash at Kilmarnock that would propel Hibs up to third, has not only caught Scotland interim boss Mackay’s attention after being linked with a reunion with former Hibs manager Tony Mowbray at Blackburn Rovers.

But the centre-half insists he is paying no attention to the speculation.

He added: “I came out of training on Sunday and there were a couple of messages on my phone. 

“I don’t know where that’s come from but it’s good to be playing well and in the winning team.

“Every player wants to get some recognition if you’re doing well and to be in the Scotland squad, there is no better recognition than that for a Scottish player.”

Hibs head coach Neil Lennon insists Hanlon’s first call-up is richly deserved.

He said: “It’s fantastic and first of all I’m thrilled for Paul.

“I think he would probably have been in Scotland squad sooner if he hadn’t been plying his trade in the Championship for three years. 

“He’s quick, which is always a good asset, he reads the game well and in the last couple of months he’s had prowess in the air. 

“He doesn’t look a 6ft 4in Grant Hanley type but his timing in both boxes has been excellent. He’s in a good place, injury free, balanced. He’s 27 coming into best years of his career so this should be a good shot in the arm for him.”

Asked about the speculation linking the player with Blackburn, Lennon said: “I would be surprised if there weren’t teams interested in him.

“I can’t do anything about speculation. I looked at it and went ‘fair enough.’ 

“If a bid comes in it comes in, but he is not for sale.”