Blackburn Club Focus – Could Grant Hanley fill Jones’s boots?

With Blackburn Rovers’ teenage sensation Phil Jones reportedly on the verge of a big-money move to Premier League champions Manchester United, many fans of the Lancashire club may be somewhat disheartened by the inevitable loss of the sturdy defender. In truth, ever since Academy graduate Jones burst onto the scene with a magnificent debut performance against Chelsea in the 2009/2010 season, many tipped the 19-year-old to go on to achieve great things. Some have compared him to Chelsea skipper John Terry, while others have even gone as far as to say that Jones could be a future England captain. Whether he fulfils such early promise remains to be seen, but for now Rovers supporters will be wondering who will be coming in to replace their former hero.

Even without Jones, Rovers still have three very able, experienced centre-backs in the squad. Two of them, Ryan Nelsen and Chris Samba, have long been the first-choice pairing at the heart of the defence when fit. The other, Frenchman Gael Givet, has played at left-back on many occasions but his preferred position is centre-back. The trio remain quality options for the Ewood Park outfit although rugged Scottish defender Grant Hanley, who is another product of Rovers’ successful Academy, could be the one to fill Jones’ shoes.

Like Jones, Hanley also made his debut in the 2009/2010 campaign, playing in the 1-0 win over Aston Villa on the final day of the season. His solid performance impressed many and the powerful Scot, who previously captained Rovers’ Under-18 side, has gone on to make a further seven league appearances since then. The 19-year-old Hanley, who recently made his debut for the Scottish national team, is looking to follow in the footsteps of former Ewood Park legend Colin Hendry. Jones’s imminent departure from Blackburn could allow Hanley to play a much bigger role in the first-team next season and make a big name for himself.

However, Hanley is quite different to Jones. Not only was the Manchester-bound youngster able to play as a defensive midfielder at Ewood, but at times he also showed great ability in making surging runs up the pitch from inside his own area. Hanley is more of a tough-tackling centre-half. Despite scoring a deflected goal against Fulham in March, Hanley is less likely to be dribbling the ball out of his box. His game is based more on winning aerial duels and tackles rather than bombing forward; in other words the perfect no-nonsense defender.

There was some talk of Hanley, who is contracted to Rovers until the summer of 2015, going out on loan to a Championship club next season, however, the imminent departure of Jones could change all of that. With Hanley, Nelsen, Givet and Samba all on the books, Steve Kean still has some great options at his disposal. For now the Lancashire outfit will have to try to keep hold of inspirational captain and Arsenal target Samba – the Congolese defender could prove to be far more difficult to replace.

Related posts

Leave a Comment