Grant Hanley is ready to put a frustrating start to life at Newcastle behind him by playing a key role in getting United’s promotion job done, writes Liam Kennedy.
The Scotland international’s Birmingham City appearance was just his third Championship start since his £5million switch from Blackburn Rovers last summer.
I’ve not played as much as I’ve liked to. But all the lads are pulling in the right direction
And the central defender admits this campaign has been far from ideal, having given up a regular starting spot and the captain’s armband at Ewood Park.
But he’s drawn a line in the sand. He knows that his own personal struggles will matter little if he can help the Magpies secure promotion back to the Premier League.
“This season has been tough for me personally because I’ve not played as much as I would have liked to,” said Hanley.
“I’m not alone in that, but what I would say is that with the club, all the lads are pulling in the same direction.
“There’s no bitterness amongst the lads – everybody is fighting together.
“The competition for places is making everybody better players, and that’s a massive positive for us because our end goal is promotion.”
With Ciaran Clark having to withdraw from the Republic of Ireland squad with a knee problem, he is rated as a major doubt for the weekend visit of Wigan Athletic.
That could open the door for Hanley, also an international withdrawal, to add to his meagre number of starts at St James’s Park.
He continued: “One of the massive strengths we have here is that the lads are together. We’re all pushing in the same direction.
“I’ve not had as much game time as I would have liked, but I’m not alone in that, there’s probably a number of lads who feel the same.
“The lads that have been playing have been doing well, and that’s just the way it is.
“Everyone will have a part to play, that’s why it’s important to be constantly ready and constantly on the top of your game. Then when the time comes when you’re called up, you’re ready to go.”
With the relegation-threatened Latics up next for Rafa Benitez & Co, it would be easy to overlook the encounter.
Hanley says there’s no chance of United doing that.
Despite their lowly position, seven points adrift of second tier safety, the Dumfries-born defender is expecting a tough day at the office.
“There’s only a month and a bit to go. It’s the back end of the season now so the games are more important than ever,” said the 25-year-old.
“You know that every game you go into in this league is going to be a fight.
“Teams are going to be hard to break down and well organised.
“We’re no strangers to that. We know what to expect.
“It’s the business end of the season really.
“Hopefully, the lads will be a bit refreshed after the international break.
“It will be good to have had the break, and hopefully we’ll come back fully focused.”