It’s surely a wind up. Grant Hanley, the captain of Blackburn Rovers, heavily linked with a move to Burnley.
This doesn’t happen, ever. Well hardly ever. Burnley took another centre-back, Andy Todd, on loan from their bitter rivals nigh on a decade ago, and on the whole the Clarets faithful took to him well.
The hole left by Jason Shackell needs to be filled; he may look like a plasterer but at 6ft 3in, Hanley has the frame and attributes to step in for the former Clarets captain.
Now after what you can glean from social media the consensus is that Burnley fans do not want the Scotland international within a chicken farm of Turf Moor. Just typing ‘Hanley Burnley’ into the twitter search bar yields more profanities than a Ron Atkinson co-commentary, the guy seems to be universally disliked by both sets of fans – yet when you look around the centre-backs currently residing out of the Premier League, Hanley is in the top five.
He has a lot of the raw attributes to become a beast of a centre-half, boasting immense physical strength and a penchant for a tackle. The diamond indeed needs to be polished, but rewind three years ago when Dyche took hold of Burnley and was introduced to his new Burnley backline marshalled by the then sporadic Jason Shackell. Dyche, a former no nonsense centre-half himself, got hold of his captain to then mould him into what is now the finest centre-back outside of the top flight.
At 23 years of age, Hanley is entering the period in his career where he can really make a name for himself and I believe that is why Burnley should sign him. Noises coming out of Ewood Park of the bid are that most of their fans would drive him to Burnley themselves, so Hanley seems to be in the unenviable place of being unwanted by supporters of both clubs.
However come Saturday, if he is lining up at Elland Road in claret and blue, dare I say with the captain’s armband on – the Burnley faithful would soon forget about his dark roots.
The price of £4m, if the rumour mill is to be believed, is an absolute snip for a player of his age and playing experience, especially if he is tied to a long contract. It would be an incredible move that would go down in history in the long tussle between two of East Lancashire’s most bitter rivals. Hanley would certainly feel the brunt of the Ewood faithful when ‘El Lanclasico’ comes around on October 24.
The Clarets need reinforcements – their promotion push cannot be built on a foundation of Michael Keane, Mike Duff and Ben Mee. Hanley could team back up with Keane at centre-half after the England under-21 international had a spell on loan at Rovers in the 2013-14 season.
With Rovers currently under embargo, the cash for the Scot from the Clarets could lift them out and make them able to sign players again. The Venkys have proven that they are no pushovers in the transfer market, standing firm time and again over Jordan Rhodes – so if Hanley is to move on it will be motivated by the player wanting out and being convinced that Burnley is the right step for him in his career.
Putting all the rivalry and hatred to one side will be Sean Dyche, who will be looking at Hanley subjectively. Will he improve the Clarets back line? The answer is yes. He is a calculated risk that comes with more baggage than most.
This is bound to split both Clarets and Rovers fans down the middle, but if they want to drive him to the Turf I will happily let them. Then again this could go the same way as the Henri Lansbury saga that has had Burnley fans utterly bored for three straight transfer windows.