Terry Butcher today tipped Paul Hanlon for Scotland stardom, insisting the Easter Road defender has what it takes “to go to the very top”.
Hanlon, who only celebrates his 24th birthday this coming Monday, has become an integral part of the Hibs side, the only outfield player to have played every minute of all 27 games so far this season as he nears 200 appearances in a green-and-white shirt. Describing Hanlon as having been “outstanding” this season, the Hibs boss claimed the defender can get even better and that it was time “people started to look at him”.
Butcher, who won 77 caps for England in an international career which spanned ten years, said: “Paul has great experience. You won’t find many players of his age who have played so many games in the Premiership. He has been outstanding, he really has.
“I said to him when I first came here ‘I want to try to get you in the Scotland squad’ as I think he should be knocking on the door with the experience he has and the player he is, the pace, the aggression, the sweet left foot he has. He would be tailor-made to slot in alongside the other centre-halves.”
Butcher revealed he hasn’t spoken to Scotland coach Gordon Strachan in regard to Hanlon, who won 23 caps for the national Under-21 team, many of them as captain, but added: “It’s about time people started to look at him and I would hope his performances would be speaking for him. Paul is certainly a player who doesn’t sound his own trumpet.
“He is very modest, but he’s a great professional, works hard and keeps his head down. He is loving every minute of it, you can see it. He’s enjoying defending, working hard and I think having Michael Nelson alongside him has helped.”
As good as he believes Hanlon has been, Butcher feels he can continue to improve and force his way into Strachan’s plans. He said: “I don’t see why not. He’s quick, good in the air, and has a sweet left foot. He’s comfortable on the ball, bringing it out, and has a good range of passing. He has everything you want from a defender but now I want to see him express himself more, to be more dominant, out-going and vocal. That comes with confidence, age and experience, knowing your job and how to do it.
“I don’t want to turn him into a dirty player, but I want him to be even more competitive and I think to do that he has to get stuck in and be a bit more nasty to play against. It’s one small chink in his armour, not really a fault, but I am looking for perfection from everybody. Paul will improve. He has certainly shown me he has a great willingness to get better and get to the very top, which is where I think he will go.”