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Surprising Jeff Hendrick positive for Newcastle United on Thursday night

3 months ago
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It has been a busy time for Jeff Hendrick.

The 28 year old free agent eventually signed for Newcastle United on Monday 24 August after weeks of unexplained delay in the deal being completed.

The midfielder then had a few days training, before speaking to the media on the Friday (28 August) about the move (see below), played 60 minutes in the 2-1 friendly win over Barnsley on Saturday 29 August, before immediately flying out to join up with the Republic of Ireland squad. The former Burnley player now spending the vast majority of the final two weeks of pre-season preparation away from Tyneside.

Last night saw the Republic of Ireland play out a 1-1 draw in Bulgaria, Shane Duffy getting a last minute equaliser.

Whilst Newcastle fans are dubious that Jeff Hendrick will improve the first 11 and certainly don’t see him as any kind of an answer to the big problems of creativity and goals (Hendrick scoring twice in his 55 games for Ireland, scoring nine and getting five assists in four PL seasons for Burnley), you have to admire his professionalism.

Despite not playing any competitive football for six months, only a few days of pre-season with his club and 60 minutes in a friendly, Jeff Hendrick still played the full 90 minutes plus added time for Ireland last night.  On Sunday they are home to Finland.

Very impressive that his fitness levels were good enough to do that.

This could be a massive boost to Newcastle United because I think previous to this, probably most NUFC fans had written off the chances of Jeff Hendrick being able to start against West Ham in eight days time.

Back on Tyneside, Thursday brought news that Steve Bruce had actually cancelled the final pre-season friendly on Monday against Middlesbrough because of fears of more injuries.

Neil Warnock saying Newcastle have seven first team players now injured and with the help of a gallery of Thursday training photos giving further clues, it appears those seven out at the moment are Dubravka, Gayle, Schar, Matty Longstaff, Clark, Dummett and Shelvey.

This just adding a further level of concern to a total shambles of a pre-season, with so far Mike Ashley refusing to spend a penny on transfer fees, whilst at the same time continuing to furlough a lot of staff, including some of the recruitment / scouting team until AFTER the transfer window ends!

Whilst the club, including Steve Bruce, have refused to allow anything that resembles normal pre-season access to the media, we did also learn from yesterday’s training photos that Joelinton and Muto trained for the first time with the squad, their pre-season absences left unexplained. Difficult to see that pair as well being ready for West Ham after only a week of training and possible participation in what is now the final friendly on Saturday against Stoke.

With Matty Longstaff and Jonjo Shelvey potentially unavailable for West Ham, that leaves only really Isaac Hayden and Sean Longstaff as available for central midfield, so Jeff Hendrick may well get an earlier chance than expected, if his fitness holds and especially if Steve Bruce wants to play three in midfield.

Otherwise, Henri Saivet is still here and has ended up playing in all three friendlies so far. No surprise with the failure to properly strengthen the squad if the unwanted former Ligue One player still ends up in the matchday squad in eight days time, or even starting against West Ham…

In over four and a half years at Newcastle, Saivet has only made three league starts and the last of those was when he scored in a 3-2 win at…West Ham, in December 2017.

The Irish Times rating Republic of Ireland players after Thursday’s 1-1 away draw at Bulgaria:

‘Jeff Hendrick:

‘Natural-born footballer, who can only thrive under Kenny’s patient passing game, but as a senior figure in the squad now he needs to dominate this calibre of international opposition.

‘Slick without ever controlling the pace.

‘Rating: 6’

(NB At least with Jeff Hendrick now having played a competitive match, the NUFC media (Chronicle especially!) can now stop interviewing every single person the midfielder has ever met, from midwife to lollipop lady, to every player and every manager he has ever worked with).

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Jeff Hendrick speaking to the media for the first time after his move to Newcastle – Friday 28 August 2020:

“[Newcastle is] A big club and it is a lovely stadium.

“I know the fans obviously won’t be in at the start but a great fanbase.

“Growing up, Newcastle were a big team for me to see on TV – so loads of different things.

“Once the offer became solid, this was where I wanted to come.

“Yes there was interest [from AC Milan].

“I know there was a bit of interest and that was it.

“It was a really nice feeling when I was told they [AC Milan] were interested.

“Everyone knows that club, it is massive, so it gave me a bit of a confidence boost.”

Jeff Hendrick telling Sky Sports about dealing with playing no football since March:

“I got myself a ball and cones and have been going down to the local park.

“I’ve done a lot of road running to keep myself ticking over.

“It’s been strange and different but I wanted to be fit for when I signed with a new club.”

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