Defender Grant Hanley accepts Scotland’s old guard now face a fight for their future with a new breed of internationalists.
Scotland boss Alex McLeish handed out five debut caps in the 1-0 friendly loss to Costa Rica at Hampden on Friday.
Aberdeen centre-back Scott McKenna was one of four debutantes in an experimental starting-line up in Alex McLeish’s first game in his return as Scotland manager.
The other players earning debut caps were Scott McTominay (Manchester United), Kevin McDonald (Fulham) and Oli McBurnie (Barnsley) from the start with Jamie Murphy (Rangers) off the bench.
McLeish will tonight lead out the Scots in a friendly against Hungary in Budapest as he continues to sculpt his squad in preparation for the Euro 2020 qualification bid.
Norwich stopper Hanley reckons the battle is on to secure a spot in the Euro 2020 campaign and has welcomed the added competition from the new faces.
He said: “Having so many new caps puts pressure on us but that is good.
“Sometimes you can get a bit stale if you know you are going to start every game.
“If young boys are coming through, that is a positive.
“The boys who came in and earned their first cap should be proud of themselves as they all did really well.
“These boys came in and showed they are in the mix for a starting place
“We are only going to make each other better as we are all pulling in the same direction and have a great team spirit.”
After not featuring against Costa Rica, Jon McLaughlin, Barry Douglas and Jack Hendry are in contention to earn debut caps in Budapest tonight.
However, Hanley will miss tonight’s friendly as he is ruled out with shin splints and has already returned to his club for further assessment from Norwich’s medical staff.
McTominay and Newcastle United’s Matt Ritchie have all been ruled out for the trip.
Hanley said: “I was just glad to be back playing for Scotland again (against Costa Rica).
“I missed out on the last squad which I was gutted about.
“However, I understood that because I wasn’t playing at my club – and hadn’t for a while.
“When you are not playing for your club you are not going to get picked for the national team. It is not rocket science.
“If you are not getting game time you cannot expect to come away with the Scotland squad and get into the starting 11.
“So it was a huge boost to get back into the squad and get some minutes under my belt.
“Any player will tell you the same – if you are not playing regularly you are not at your best. So it is good to be back playing and going out feeling sharp.”
Hanley has emerged as a key figure in Daniel Farke’s Norwich squad and has been an ever-present in recent months.
The 26-year-old played all 90 minutes in an experimental defence, comprising three centre-backs, alongside Aberdeen’s McKenna and skipper Charlie Mulgrew.
It is doubtful McLeish will go with the same formation tonight.
Hanley said: “We played a different system against Costa Rica. Three at the back is a formation that works if you do it properly.
“Sometimes it can take the boys a bit of time to get to grips with different things.
“It is something that we will have to take on board and learn from nights like Costa Rica to try to get better.”
Not only was McLeish’s return to the Scotland position marked with a defeat and disappointing display it was also accompanied by boos at half-time and full-time from sections of the Tartan Army.
McLeish previously led the Scots in 2007 but left the position to take over at then Premier League Birmingham.
He was ultimately third choice to replace Gordon Strachan after a failed attempt to land Northern Ireland’s Michael O’Neill and a tentative bid to sound out Walter Smith.
It is clear McLeish, and his squad have a long road to win back their complete backing.
Asked about the booing, Hanley said: “That is part and parcel of football.
“The fans let you know when they are not happy.
“It is up to the players to try and make them happy.
“It was a different system under a different manager.
“After a slow start we were right at it and a lot better in the second half.”
Hanley and the other international centre-backs can tap into the knowledge and experience of Scotland’s most capped defender in McLeish.
The 59-year-old earned 77 caps for his country and played at three World Cups (1982, 86 and 90).
“It is a bonus for a defender, and centre-halves especially to have someone like that who has played at that level and has that much experience,” said Hanley.
“There are things we can pick up from him.”