Things didn’t go well for Jack Hendry at Celtic and he was promptly loaned to the Belgian minnows KV Oostende. However, he and his teammates are now making great strides to turn the club from a relegation candidate to a European qualifier. Ostend’s turnaround is such a big shock that the BBC compared the situation to reaching the Champions League from Hamilton Accies!
To reach the first European competition, Oostende has to get second place. It seemed impossible at the start of the season but is now high on the agenda. Hendry has played a huge role this season and has scored some important goals as well. This is gratifying for the player who originally went to Melbourne City but cut his loan period after two games when he sustained a cruciate ligament injury.
Speak with BBC Scotland Hendry said of his performances in Belgium: “I had to press the reset button. Going to Australia was an opportunity to get away from it all, regain my confidence and play again. Then I got this terrible injury.
“When I was outside, the coronavirus started and I came back and had a few months to get myself into the best possible shape. I used this time to address people who might not have worked that hard. “
Hendry’s hard work paid off when a team from the Belgian league called.
“Ostend really wanted me. They were low in the league last season but I felt like I could be a good influence. Fortunately, it pays off. “
Going to the Belgian coast was a new challenge for the young Celtic defender, especially when you consider that Oostende never finished fourth in the top division. They are now finished second in the 16-man table last season.
Amazingly, this form changed when Oostende finished fourth – just two points behind Antwerp, which finished second in the Champions League.
“Oostende is like a Hamilton at home – a club that is lower in the SPFL is comparable,” said Hendry. “It’s a small, local club with good people. That shows how great it would be if we could get that place in the Champions League and achieve something very impressive. “
Such successes have not gone unnoticed across Europe and Hendry hopes they will speak to Steve Clarke when the Scottish head coach puts together his squad for this summer’s European Championship.
Hendry won the last of his three caps in October 2018, but with Scotland’s 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign kicking off with a triple header this month, the center-back has no shortage of incentives.
“The first time I played for Scotland was my proudest moment and I really want to wear this shirt again,” he added. “All I can do is hold up my standards and present the coach with a tough decision.
“After Ostend I developed myself as a player and as a person. I’ve really matured, pretty much grown up. I play against good opponents and international strikers every week.
“Scotland played with the back three and I was part of the same system here. When I play in the middle, I can show my speed, my strength and my skills on the ball. If I were to be called back to Scotland it would really suit my style. “
Brendan Rodgers signed the player, but Neil Lennon never gave him an opportunity. Although most fans didn’t shed tears when he was sent to Australia and Belgium, Hendry was disappointed not having a chance to prove himself.
“It’s frustrating that I was never given the opportunity to show what I could do under Lennon,” said Hendry. “The way I play I could be a really good influence and it wasn’t nice to see how the season turned out for them (Celtic).”
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