Colin Hendry hails ‘warrior’ son Callum as he emerges with St Johnstone

Callum Hendry celebrates scoring for St Johnstone against Dundee United in the Irn-Bru Cup in midweek. Picture: SNS.
Callum Hendry celebrates scoring for St Johnstone against Dundee United in the Irn-Bru Cup in midweek. Picture: SNS.
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The course of a couple of days has done little to diminish the father’s pride and rightly so. It’s good to hear Colin Hendry so full of the joys again after son Callum grabbed such a personally significant brace for St Johnstone Colts earlier this week.

The scion of a Scottish icon just had to score his first senior goals in the Irn Bru Cup. The gods finally consented to give the kid a break. It was additionally pleasing that the feat occurred around the corner from Callum’s grandparents’ home in Dundee.

In the Lancashire-based Colin’s absence, Catherine and David were cheerleaders at Tannadice. Not even Dundee United’s late rally to win 3-2 and reach the next round of the competition could spoil the occasion.

It was especially poignant because Catherine and David are the parents of Denise, the mother Callum credits, along with his father, for helping his footballing talents to flourish by devotedly ferrying him to games, rain or shine. She passed away in 2009, when Callum was only 12 years old, following complications after a botched cosmetic surgery procedure seven years earlier.

It was clear to what Colin was referring when he tweeted on Wednesday night as the score flashes filtered through: “My heart goes out for this kid ... what he’s been through ....I know it’s my lad and I’m biased ... but he’s f*cking rucked it up ... a true warrior . Deserves no less.”

These were words from the heart. A Braveheart. But Hendry Snr sounds embarrassed when reminded of the nickname that became his brand given the obstacles Callum has overcome. He took a year out from attending the Blackburn Rovers football academy to cope with his mother’s death. Just a few years later he suffered a serious knee injury – in the playground at school.

“He has to be that type to get through what he has gone through,” says Colin, now 52. “I never really mention so much about the loss of his mum. But at the tender age of 12 that happened, and then he did his ACL at 15 in the playground and again when he was 17 playing for Clitheroe, when he was out on loan [from Blackburn Rovers). Eight goals in 12 games and it was his last game…

“You can imagine the trauma,” he adds. “That series of events adds up to one mighty big bloody blow. He has come through a lot. But I think you have to recognise what he’s done already and what he has had to come through. It’s a hell of an effort. Any pats on the back he gets he deserves.

“Listen don’t get me wrong, there will be those worse off, who have come through worse and made it in the game. But you can only talk about what you have in front of you. That’s my boy. That’s my son. If he gets a shot on Saturday.... what will be will be. Roll on the next game.”

The next game is today’s Betfred Cup clash with Queen of the South at Palmerston Park. Callum was added to the squad yesterday. Prior to Wednesday night’s brace manager Tommy Wright was keen to send the striker out on loan.

“Tommy was looking for him to go out on loan for six months – and I played with Tommy at Man City so I know him well,” says Colin. “I had a good chat with Tommy a couple of weeks ago and he said: ‘Col I would like him to go out on loan with a couple of others’.

“Having done what he’s done this week, who knows what will happen,” adds Colin. “The manager has food for thought. Whatever Tommy decides to do with Callum I think will be the right thing. If Tommy thinks it is the right thing to do I have every faith in Tommy, because he has done everything right so far.”

While recognising Callum is already 20 and has made just a solitary league start, Colin has no concerns about him having missed the boat. His own career did not ignite until he moved to England from Dundee at the age of 21. He was already 27 when he won the first of 51 Scotland caps.

It all started for him across the road from where Callum grabbed his maiden goals. Like Callum, Colin began his career as a striker and scored his first senior goal for Dundee in a 7-0 Scottish Cup win over Nairn County in early 1986.

Archie Knox was already trying to convert him from a striker into a centre-half. Donald Mackay, who signed Hendry for Dundee from Keith and was now manager of Blackburn Rovers, was soon on the phone to Jocky Scott, Knox’s successor at Dens.

“Jocky said, ‘Listen we have accepted a £25,000 offer from Blackburn in England, you can go if you want’,” recalls Colin. “‘We are not kicking you out but’…I was like ‘where the hell is Blackburn?’”

Within a fortnight, he had scored the winner in a Wembley final to secure Blackburn’s first piece of silverware for 27 years. It might just have been the Full Members Cup and the opposition only Charlton Athletic but, as Colin says, “you cannot beat scoring a goal in a cup final at Wembley, irrespective of the cup final”.

He went on to be transferred for huge sums, including when he signed for Rangers 20 years ago this month for 
£4 million. Now Colin hopes Callum can reap the rewards.

“I have pushed him more than anyone,” he says. “It’s only natural because I know it’s a nice life. In fact, it’s not a nice life – it’s a fantastic life! What they get paid these days you don’t have to be the best to have a fantastic life.”

Although he has signed a two-year contract at St Johnstone, no one could claim Callum has struck it rich yet. But, like his father did when travelling to the Highlands from Dundee 35 years ago, he’s learning some valuable life lessons. His father pays credit to the Hayes family, with whom Callum is currently lodging along with a team-mate.

He has clearly found a home from home in Perth. “Callum made his full debut last season at Hamilton Accies – me and the eldest boy [Kyle] drove up for that,” says Colin. “That was a hard shift playing up front by himself. But they won 1-0. He was happy because he got his first ever win bonus!”