Club Brugge's Jack Hendry now in better place as former Celtic defender speaks on change of fortunes

Jack Hendry has endured so many setbacks in his career that when former Club Brugge head coach Alfred Schreuder started exiling him from his team earlier this year, the defender would have been entitled to scoff.

Hendry during a Champions League match for Club Brugge against RB Leipzig.
Hendry during a Champions League match for Club Brugge against RB Leipzig.

He might have asked: is that the best that you’ve got? Hendry has been through the mill which is why his recent success after regaining his place in the team – he scored as Brugge sealed the Belgian Pro League title with a 3-1 win over Royal Antwerp last month – was all the more admirable as well as personally satisfying for the player himself.

Although Hendry now claims the row was “blown out of proportion”, there is no denying the snub hurt him.

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It was clearly irking him when he spoke out after scoring in Scotland’s 2-2 friendly draw with Austria in March. It was his first action for club or country for five weeks.

Jack Hendry in action for Scotland during a the match against Ukraine.

Schreuder, who had only recently arrived from Barcelona where he had been assistant coach to Ronald Koeman, dropped the centre-half to the bench. On one occasion he even excluded him from the squad completely in favour of a 19-year-old rookie Abakar Sylla.

It was a sudden shift in fortunes for Hendry, who was a mainstay of previous manager Philippe Clemente’s team after joining in August from KV Oostende.

Hendry earned the man of the match award when up against Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar in a Champions League group match against Paris Saint-Germain in September.

Schreuder assured Hendry it was nothing personal. However, the defender sounded not so sure. “We changed manager and he [Schreuder] has been extremely harsh on me,” he told reporters in Vienna during the last international break. “We will see what happens when I go back but it needs to change.”

Something of significance has changed. Schreuder is no longer manager having been recruited by Ajax to replace Erik ten Hag, who has moved to take over the helm at Manchester United. But Hendry reports an improvement in relations between the pair after he won back his place in the team in time to play a part in their title success.

He started two of their last three games. He came on in the other one after 27 minutes and put his team 2-1 up against Royal Antwerp on the day the championship was clinched.

All’s well that ends well does not quite apply here because Hendry is still processing the 3-1 defeat to Ukraine on Wednesday night that ended Scotland’s World Cup dream. He was sent on by Steve Clarke with 22 minutes left to replace Liam Cooper and could well be set to add another appearance – this time from the start – to his current cap count of 14 against Armenia on Wednesday night.

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Despite his unhappy period of exile at Brugge, the 27-year-old has clocked up the most appearances of his career – 45, including internationals – during the current campaign. His previous best was 43 games for Dundee and then Celtic in 2017/18. Brendan Rodgers has since regretted playing him as much as he did as the defender struggled to handle the step up in intensity at Parkhead.

He was later loaned out to Melbourne City and almost immediately suffered a serious knee injury. He has responded again and again to challenges. There is no questioning his mental toughness.

It’s why Clarke can be confident Hendry will take the latest blow of failing to secure a World Cup play-off final spot in his long and elegant stride. Hendry is confident the current squad, the majority of whom will still be around in 2026, can put that right at the next World Cup.

“From not playing for a wee bit to getting back into the team and scoring the goal to win the league was amazing,” reflected Hendry. “It was a shame I couldn’t have added to that the other night as my main goal was to help take Scotland to a World Cup.

“I can still achieve that – this group can still achieve it. It’s like club football. You can’t get too low and you have to wait for the opportunity to come around and then take it.”

Hendry certainly did that at Brugge, where he has re-established himself following the £8 million move from KV Oostende. Although he wishes Schreuder well at Ajax, he sounds happy to be working under new coach Carl Hoefkens, who has been promoted from assistant manager.

"I spoke about that [Schreuder] after the Austria game and maybe a few things I said was not the best and it maybe got blown out of proportion a wee bit," he reflected.

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“I was highly emotional at that time but we got over that and I was playing again towards the end of the season. It was a learning curve for me. I was delighted by the end of this tenure we got along better than we did and he put me back in.

“He’s gone now and I wish him all the best at Ajax. I am now really excited to work under the new manager and to see what the future can bring.

“It’s good to be at a club competing for domestic level and playing in the Champions League. That’s why I went there and I feel it’s brought me on leaps and bounds. It was amazing playing against the stature of players that I did. I want to continue to play at that level.

“Carl has been at the club so I know him well and I’ve excited for what the future will bring.

“I was probably only out of the team for about 10 games and I was getting on a lot. It was just the disappointment of not starting games, but these things happen in football.

“What I can say is my team-mates were brilliant with me and they got us back in to a position to win the league. They made it achievable (for me) to come back in and seal the title with that goal.”