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Sunday 23 July 2017

Ward hails Hendrick presence in Clarets' drop fight

Dubliners gear up for busy spell with Burnley in scrap to stay in top flight

Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick in action against Spurs’ Christian Eriksen during last weekend’s Premier League clash at White Hart Lane
Burnley’s Jeff Hendrick in action against Spurs’ Christian Eriksen during last weekend’s Premier League clash at White Hart Lane

It has taken time for a section of the Burnley FC support to warm to their record signing, Ireland international Jeff Hendrick.

But a stunning goal in the recent Premier League win over Bournemouth was a sign of what the man from Coolock is capable of, according to his club-mate, international team-mate and fellow northsider Stephen Ward.

Before that win over the Cherries two weeks ago, Hendrick had scored as many goals (one) in four games for Ireland as he had managed in 11 outings for the Clarets.

But Ward knows that Hendrick is capable of big goals, and more of them, as Burnley try to move away from the bottom of the Premier League table.

"He's shown glimpses of it right from the off," Ward told the Lancashire Telegraph.

"His performance against Bournemouth was something I've seen from him before, an all-round midfielder, box to box, and I think he gives us a real presence, which is something that's been a really big for us since he's come in.

BONUS

"To see him chip in with goals like that is a massive bonus as well.

"I think he can do anything, he can play in a two or a three, he's got that completeness about him as a midfielder.

"He likes to get in the box and score goals and anyone that can chip in is a big plus."

The win over Bournemouth didn't send shock waves across England but it was important - from an Irish standpoint - for a couple of reasons. With Ward also on target, it was the first occasion in some time where two Irish players scored for their side in the same Premier League game.

His goal was also a big deal for Ward personally.

Not only was it his first goal of the season, it was his first at club level since last March (he'd scored for Ireland in between, against Belarus before Euro 2016) and his first goal in the Premier League since January 2012.

"You take goals from anywhere. Obviously we work on shooting in training and we've a few new additions who really have the technique to strike the ball from outside the box - Jeff, Steven Defour did it earlier in the season - so we've got players who can score goals," added Ward.

"It's nice a few are chipping in and taking a bit of the burden off the centre-forwards.

"Hopefully the 11 who have scored can get one or two more, but it doesn't matter who scores, it's all about the results."

The players have had some down time this week but there's a busy spell ahead, with matches for the Clarets at home to Middlesbrough (on St Stephen's Day) and Sunderland (New Year's Eve) before a tough one against Manchester City on January 2nd.

Some players moan about the problems they face over the festive period (though West Ham's Mark Noble seems to have mixed up his metaphors when he said that players being unable to see their families on Christmas Day was "one of the perks of the job"), but Ward enjoys this time of the year.

He scored one of the stand-out goals of his career in Christmas week in 2010, in a 1-0 win for Wolves away to Liverpool, and around the same time, two years later, he netted for Wolves against Chelsea.

Having lost their last four away games, Ward and Burnley are just glad to be at home over Christmas for the two games.

"We're really pleased with how we've played at home," says Ward.

"There's obviously been a lot spoken about our away form, and that's something we'll look to rectify as soon as possible.

"If we can pick up a few points here and there away from home, it's really going to strengthen our position and give us a real lift off the home form we've been showing."

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