Hendry will be solution to problem position for Scotland says Rodgers

Jack Hendry will benefit from big-game experience at Celtic, says Brendan Rodgers. Picture: SNS.
Jack Hendry will benefit from big-game experience at Celtic, says Brendan Rodgers. Picture: SNS.
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Jack Hendry has started only 25 Premiership games (two for Partick Thistle in 2014, the remainder for Dundee this season) but that was enough to persuade Celtic manager Brendan Rodgers to part with around £1.4m for his services this week.

It probably helped that three of those appearances were against Celtic during this campaign and, although the champions won all three with an aggregate 7-0 scoreline, Rodgers saw enough to smash the Tayside club’s record for a transfer fee received.

The 22-year-old may make his debut for Celtic when they face Kilmarnock at Rugby Park in today’s lunchtime kick-off, when a victory will take the league leaders 14 points clear of closest rivals Aberdeen and 17 beyond Rangers in third place.

Yet before he has kicked a ball in anger for them, Rodgers is already predicting great things for the ball-playing central defender, not least that he will be the man to solve what has been a problem position for the national team for the best part of a decade.

Grant Hanley, Russell Martin and Charlie Mulgrew have been tried and found wanting but Rodgers insists that Hendry is the real deal.

“In Jack Hendry, I believe we’ve signed someone who is, potentially, a brilliant centre-half not only for Celtic but for Scotland,” he said. “He’s 22, 6ft 3in and super-quick. He can defend well and play football and, if he can deal with the pressure and scrutiny and expectation of being a Celtic player, he can go a long way.”

The departure of chief executive Stewart Regan from the SFA is likely to further delay the identification and appointment of Gordon Strachan’s successor as manager of Scotland but Rodgers is convinced that Hendry will tick all the boxes for the new man when he addresses the hole in the centre of his defence.

“There’s no question he could fill it,” he said. “He just needs experience now and he’s going to get big-game experience here every single week that he plays. With Celtic, every meeting is a big game. Jack’s done a great job at Dundee and I give credit to Neil McCann for the way he’s got his side playing because it showcases talents like Jack.

“By asking your team to have the courage to play football, then players like Jack can exhibit their qualities. The ideal characteristics for international football are physicality, speed, power, technique, the ability to read a game tactically and the right mentality.

“Jack has all of those attributes and what we intend to do is to allow them to grow naturally.”

The main reason for the delay in processing his transfer on deadline day – and the factor which drove up the asking price for him – was that McCann wanted Celtic to loan the player back to them for the remainder of the current campaign, just as they had done with St Mirren midfielder Lewis Morgan, pictured, who had been signed by the club earlier last month.

“Yes, that was the case but I felt that I wanted him in now because the next six months will be important for him in terms of bedding in and understanding the culture here,” said 
Rodgers.

“Plus, because of the systems we play – we swing from three centre-halfs to four defenders – he can play in a couple of positions.”