Last night, Jeff Hendrick made his first competitive start for SIX months last night in the Republic of Ireland’s UEFA Nations League clash with Bulgaria.
He played the full 90 and saw his side rescue a point late on with a late Shane Duffy header and put in a solid shift from what I watched, showing his engine off the ball and some moments of quality on it, however his performance has provoked a VERY mixed reaction amongst Irish fans on social media.
The Irish Sun gave him a 7/10 in their post-match player ratings – the joint highest on the night – saying: “Fizzed the ball around well and was involved in some Ireland’s best passages of play. But did not get on the ball enough in his advanced midfield position. Dropped deeper as the game wore on.“
That said, most of the comments we found on Twitter were less complimentary:
‘Genuinely don’t see what Jeff Hendrick offers.’
‘Jeff Hendrick wouldn’t get a kick in a stampede.. Very poor.’
‘Jeff Hendrick must have some agent linking him with a move to AC Milan. The fella hasn’t had a good game since euro 2016. Tragic.‘
‘Hendrick really isn’t up to it at this level. Hasn’t played well for Ireland in about 4 years.’
‘It’s amazing how poor some of our best performing PL players look in an Irish shirt. Coleman and Hendrick often guilty of this imo. Doherty in that mould tonight.‘
‘Jeff Hendrick will be glad no fans will be allowed into St James Park.’
‘Decent enough opening half. Hendrick the best he has been in an Ireland shirt for a long time.’
‘If Hendrick has been playing the best he has for Ireland since euro 16, our standards as a nation are diabolical.’
‘Thought that Hendrick was average, no confidence to pass forward safe pass back to CB’s constantly‘
‘Hendrick and Hourihane have offered nothing all game from a creativity standpoint.’
‘What exactly does Jeff Hendrick bring to the table?‘
‘Jeff Hendrick final ball is like mine at 5 a side…’
‘Jeff Hendrick thinks he’s Pirlo when in reality he’s closer to Charlie Adam’
Considering he hasn’t played since March, with him not playing any part in Project Restart after rejecting a new deal at Burnley, I thought he was pretty decent, looking strong, fit, taking up some good defensive positions and showing glimpses on the ball with a few nice passes or sharp pieces of footwork. He had a quiet second half, but the reaction from Irish fans seems way over the top from what I watched.
It’s interesting that a Burnley fan we recently spoke to in a Q&A for the blog said that Clarets fans unfairly used him as a scapegoat at times, and I’m starting to wonder if Ireland fans do too based on some of the comments above!
He won’t play any part in tomorrow’s friendly against Stoke and seems unlikely to start at West Ham next weekend, but a few games under his belt at international level over the next few days could do his fitness and match sharpness the world of good.