Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick has opened up on why he feels he hasn’t quite been able to reach the form he found during Ireland’s successful run to the last 16 at the European Championships in France three years ago.
Hendrick has been a staple of the Irish side over the last number of years, with Thursday’s game against Switzerland set to be his 50th cap. However during the final stages of O’Neill’s reign especially, he failed to find his best form.
The 27-year-old has been name checked by current Irish manager Mick McCarthy as a player he is very fond of and the Burnley man has looked sharper in games under the new regime, scoring against Gibraltar and impressing against Georgia.
Hendrick has shown glimpses in the past of his quality and in Euro 2016 especially, looked as though he would kick on and become somewhat of a talisman for the Boys in Green.
The Burnley man however failed to truly take that next step despite featuring week in and week out in the Premier League at club level.
Speaking ahead of Ireland’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Switzerland, Hendrick outlined that he felt he was being played out of position at times during Martin O’Neill’s reign and that his form may have taken a dip as a result.
“I’ve said this before, I hear the outside noise and people saying they haven’t seen me since the Euros and everyone has their own opinion.
“I did play a lot of games not in the position I played in at the Euros. For me I always try and give everything for the country but it’s difficult when you’re playing in a different position to what you’re naturally good at I’d say.”
“I tried to do my best for the team, like I said, it was tough. I was playing on the right and at times I was nearly up front so I was just trying to adapt and do what I can for the team.”
With Ireland struggling to find the net frequently as of late and with no goals between any of the strikers in the current squad, McCarthy is aware that he may need to find firepower from elsewhere – with his midfield a viable option
Now back playing in his preferred central role, Hendrick admitted he feels more comfortable and outlined that he is working hard in training to become a source of goals for the Boys in Green as they look to qualify for a third successive European Championships.
“The manager said it to me when he came in he said ‘I know you’re a central midfielder’ and so I’ve played there in the games under him and in training too and I’m enjoying it. That’s where I want to play.
“Him Robbie (Keane) and Terry Connor, they know I’m the type of player who wants to play in the middle and get on the ball, but with the attributes I have, the size of me, I should be getting into the box and getting on the end of things and that’s something we’ve been working on in training.
“Obviously I got the goal against Gibraltar but there’s been a few others. Against Georgia at home I was breaking into the box as well.”