Paddy Davitt: Hewn from Scottish granite. Grant Hanley is the man for Norwich City
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It was organic and spontaneous but it spoke volumes about Grant Hanley’s impact at Norwich City.
The Canaries’ centre back sensed Timm Klose was in trouble but moved through the gears to thwart the growing danger in front of Angus Gunn.
Hanley surged crossfield to lever Nottingham Forest’s young striker Ben Brereton off the ball and calmly get his side back on the front foot, as the applause rippled around Carrow Road.
Before it subsided you could hear the strains of a song synonymous with one of the visitors’ finest modern-day players.
‘You’ll never beat Grant Hanley,’ rose up, in an echo of the tune that for a number of years in the early 1990s was the soundtrack to another decisive intervention from England’s Des Walker.
As comparisons go, Hanley could do much worse. Walker won two League Cups under Brian Clough and was part of the Bobby Robson squad who defied expectations to thrill the nation with a run to the semi-finals of Italia 90.
Walker was a seriously good operator in his pomp. Hanley is a different type of centre back, but proving no less dominant in a debut season which should whet the appetite for what might lie ahead.
The 26-year-old has emerged as the defensive rock Farke was missing in those early-season humblings at places like Aston Villa and Millwall.
It is academic now, of course, but City would have been much closer to the top six if the Canaries had managed to extricate Hanley from his Premier League pain at Newcastle United before the start of this current campaign.
Farke has since gone on record to reveal Norwich were forced to play the long game, until Hanley dropped into their price range, after identifying the defender earlier in the summer.
That single piece of business should serve to encourage any Canaries nervous over the shape and direction of the upcoming close-season transfer window. Hanley has undoubtedly proved a major hit in green and yellow.
His performances have galvanised those around him on the pitch, as well as those who follow.
The regular drip feed of football he craved - after he was effectively edged out of the first team picture under Rafa Benitez on Tyneside - has brought an ever-increasing confidence and sharpness to his game.
Hanley is a leader, with or without the armband, and it would be no great surprise if Farke bestows the captaincy on his Scottish international at a suitable point in the future.
Hanley hinted at this transition, from bit-part role to leading man, in recent weeks and again on Scotland duty last week.
“I like to talk and organise and the more settled you get the more natural it becomes,” he said. “I feel like after not playing for so long it is nice to get a run of games in the team and finally getting back to where I was.
“Most importantly, I am enjoying my football again and really enjoying being here. I just want to keep working hard.”
One of Farke’s predecessors at Carrow Road, Paul Lambert, eulogised about his compatriot when they worked together at Blackburn.
That big-money switch to the Magpies may not have worked out for either party but in the Championship there are few better or more imposing aerial presences.
The manner he brushed aside Tiago Ilori to thump home a close range header in front of the Barclay last weekend was no less emphatic than the way he has anchored 11 clean sheets, and counting.
Go back to Bristol City or Brentford, to highlight just two games on that particular run, when Norwich’s backline was pinned deep inside their own half, and Hanley was a colossus.
That abrasive, belligerent strain - which appears second nature to the Scot - is an obdurate streak Farke must harness moving forward.
Much of the focus now is rightly on Farke’s quest to unlock the creative potential of a set of players who have struggled for goals all season.
But that must not be to the detriment of the solid base the head coach has forged around a towering presence who feels like a throwback to the no nonsense defenders of yesteryear.
Norwich need guile but they also need guts.
Hanley has that in abundance, and it is why he has already been taken to the hearts of the City faithful.
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