Disquiet about the presence of Jack Hendry in the centre of the Celtic defence refuses to go away. The 23-year-old was blamed for two goals in the 3-1 beating that Salzburg handed out to the Scottish champions in the Europa League on Thursday night, to add to the growing charge sheet in the eyes of a support who have cruelly written the player off. Yet, however fair that might be, the fact is that whatever troubles have come the way of Brendan Rodgers’ men in this consistently testing season, they seem to find Hendry.
It is likely he will drop out for the trip to St Johnstone this afternoon with on-loan Leicester City centre-back Filip Benkovic fit again following a two-week injury lay-off. And Rodgers hints that, with Kristoffer Ajer and Jozo Simunovic also to come back, sightings of Hendry could become rarer than they so far have been since his £1.5m move from Dundee in January, a period during which he has stepped up to the Scotland senior side.
“With Jack, in all fairness to him, I admire the fact that he never hides,” the Irishman said. “He has been thrown in here at Celtic a lot sooner than I would have wanted. When I brought him in, it was to develop him and progress him. I wanted him to come in, be a support centre-half and get a feel for a huge club like Celtic. I wanted to improve him in his training and develop him along that route.
“Instead, he’s had to come in and be thrown straight into it in a lot of big-pressure games. He trains every day. He is not one of those ones who’s looking for a way out. Yes, he has made mistakes. But he is a very honest boy and someone I’ll always support to be the best he can be.
“Dedryck Boyata has been great. When he’s been fit, he’s been the consistent one. We have then had inconsistency in terms of availability. Jozo [Simunovic] has had an issue around injuries but it’s very important, especially at this level, that you defend well as a team, not just the back four and goalkeeper.
“Jack is a boy who has put himself in there. I’ve had to put him in sooner than I’d have liked but it’s a great learning period for him. He joined us last year and was part of the team which won the treble. It was all great. But this is where you do a lot of your learning and development, and it’s ultimately where you’re measured, when all isn’t going so well.
“It’s all experiences. We all saw the potential when he was at Dundee and how well he did there. Coming to here, getting on in some games, affecting the game and progressing well was all good. Since the summer, he’s been thrown into some big games and that is something that wasn’t really a part of the plan for him. However, he has never backed away from it. It is something which will hold him in really good stead for the rest of his career.
“He’s a really good guy. He would be out training and working and, in time, he will show what a good player he is. That’s what tells you everything about the player. Sometimes in the modern game, you get players that can remove themselves out of that situation and they are not available. He has never, ever done that – ever. He is honest, he knows he can make mistakes but he’s learning in a tough school where wins are important. I’m pretty confident he will grow from this and show he’s a good player.”