The Parkhead men’s nine-year grip on championship will officially end if they fail to beat Dundee United at Tannadice. That is not on Jack Hendry, though. Not when he has spent the past nine months rebuilding his career on loan with KV Oostende, an unfancied Belgian club that his commanding displays at the heart of a back three have helped put in contention for a Champions League place.
There was no grumbling from the Celtic faithful when Hendry was packed off on loan to Belgium in July, having just recovered from a knee ligament injury that wrecked a loan spell with Melbourne City only weeks after he crossed the globe to Australia in January 2020. By then the now-25-year-old was more than a year without a start in Celtic colours. Talked up by Brendan Rodgers when signed by him from Dundee in a £1.2m deal in January 2018, his time with the Parkhead side had gone sour - despite three Scotland caps in his first year - long before Neil Lennon took over following Rodgers’ February 2019 switch to Leicester City.
The climate may now have changed for Hendry in Glasgow now, though. Christopher Jullien is likely to miss the start of next season with a knee injury, Kristoffer Ajer seems certain to move on and Shane Duffy is sure to return to parent club Brighton. That could leave Celtic, as it stands, without a recognised senior centre-back for the pening of a crucial campaign on the back of a season when Hendry, in a back three, has patently made impressive strides in the competitive Belgian environment. So much so, his form is reported to have drawn interest from Burnley, Brighton and Sheffield United.
Celtic interim John Kennedy suggests Hendry, who still has a year on his present deal, could be given the opportunity to reactivate his career in Glasgow’s east end. Even though it has been reported that a mustard-keen Ostende have an option to buy him for £1.75m - which runs contrary to the player himself saying Celtic keeping him would be “something they would need to make a decision on”.
“It probably didn’t quite work out [for him before], he had periods in the team and periods not and then the decision came to put him out to play,” said Kennedy. “I will be honest with you, I don’t know the details about the deal in terms of beyond the loan, but Jack was at the stage where at his age and his stage of his career he had to get out and play. We had a number of centre-halfs ahead of him and he recognised that.
“It is good that he has done well. We have kept in touch, I have spoken to him several times and he is enjoying himself and playing regularly. I don’t think a decision on his future will be made until the summer. It will depend on everybody’s situation and how things look and people’s opinions, but a conversation will take place then. Until then he has to continue to play, get the games under his belt.”