Jeff Hendrick has this week become our second summer signing, following Mark Gillespie to St James’ Park – although the Republic of Ireland international will be expected to feature a lot more frequently for the first team.
Since signing for Burnley in 2016, he has been a first team regular at Turf Moor with a total of 122 Premier League appearances. In the recent campaign, he played 1935 minutes, which was the fewest of any season for the Clarets. This was due to the midfielder’s contract situation, as he didn’t feature once after lockdown.
It’s also worth noting that, aside from 2019/20 (for the reasons explained above), he’s played 35 games or more every season for EIGHT straight years – a feat which highlights an impressive injury record for a player known for his engine and non-stop work rate. It’s also a promising stat given the likes of Shelvey, Hayden and Sean Longstaff have had their fair share of knocks over the years.
In recent times, Hendrick has played the majority of his minutes as a right midfielder, but at his best in central areas, with him expected to arrive as Nabil Bentaleb’s replacement after the Algerian returned to Schalke following an uninspiring loan spell.
As a free agent with over 100 Premier League appearances since 2016, he represents a very shrewd addition to the squad.
There isn’t a great deal to get excited about in his stats while at Burnley, but it is worth remembering the limitations of their style of play. A lot of their attacking game is centred on their strikers and set pieces are an important avenue for their attacks. In their set-up last season, Dwight McNeil was given license to create, while Hendrick was used as more of a functional right midfielder.
In the 122 Premier League appearances, he contributed nine goals and five assists. However, he was much more productive during his time at Derby County and had one Championship season, in which he got seven goals and nine assists. Steve Bruce will be hoping that he can get more out of Hendrick in attack than Burnley managed to.
Last season, Hendrick averaged 1.6 ball recoveries, 0.9 shots, 0.6 key passes and 0.9 dribbles per game. His pass completion of 75.6% is good in a team that doesn’t have a high amount of possession.
The feisty free agent will add versatility, energy and Premier League experience to our squad, being able to play in central midfield, on the right wing or as a number ten.
Due to Nabil Bentaleb leaving and Matty Longstaff possibly following, it was important that we sourced some cheap midfield cover. In terms of value, Hendrick is an excellent choice for me, with Burnley, a team that finished above us in the table, having tried to keep hold of the midfielder.
Jack Colback also left us earlier in the window, therefore when considering the wage budget, it is probably a like-for-like swap with Hendrick replacing the Forest bound midfielder.
When considering the transfer like this, it is an excellent piece of business by the club, putting no dent in Bruce’s reported summer budget of £30m.
It is now important that we follow this up with two or three more additions, with striker being the most important.