BRENDAN RODGERS is an admirer of Jack Hendry who he regards as a player who has always stood up and has been prepared to play, take the criticism that has come his way but has always been ready to come back and do it all again every time he has been asked.
If Hendry is missing today at McDiarmid Park then it is more likely down to a bug that has affected him for the last few days, rather than any loss of faith in the player from the manager.
“With Jack, I admire the fact he never hides,” Brendan said.
“He has been thrown into his career here at Celtic a lot sooner than I would have wanted. When I brought Jack 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.
“Yes, he has made mistakes. But Jack is a very honest boy and someone I’ll always support to be the best he can be. He trains every day. He is not one of those ones who’s looking for a way out.
“Jack has never backed away from anything and that is something which will hold him in really good stead for the rest of his career.
“He’s a really good guy and, in time, he will show what a good player he is,” Brendan continued.
The manager, with recent scenarios clearly on his mind, contrasted the situations we all know about with the way Hendry has always been prepared to pull on the jersey when asked to do so.
“Sometimes in the modern game, you get players that can remove themselves out of situations and they are not available. Hendry has never done that, whether it’s training or anything. That’s what tells you everything about the player.
“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.”
Hendry arrived just after Marvin Compper, the highly paid German who was meant to bring experience and quality to the Celtic defence – instead he has played 81 minutes against Morton and is regarded by the support as the biggest waste of money since Derk Boerrigter arrived from Ajax.
Assessing his central defenders Rodgers talked through the situation with each one.
“Boyata has been great. When he’s been fit, he’s been the consistent one. We have then had inconsistency in terms of availability,” – that’s one way of saying what happened. Boyata is at least doing well as he concludes his time at Celtic at the end of the year.
“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 the keeper.
“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 are measured, when all isn’t going so well. It’s all experiences. We all saw the potential when Hendry was at Dundee and how well he did there.
“Coming to Celtic, 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 wasn’t really a part of the plan for Jack.”
With Jack Hendry struggling to play today, new loan signing Filip Benkovic could return to play beside Boyata.