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Thursday 25 April 2019

Jeff is back to his best: Kevin

Kilbane also backs Browne in green

Burnley’s Irish midfelder Jeff Hendrick during the away win at Brighton
Burnley’s Irish midfelder Jeff Hendrick during the away win at Brighton

Kevin Kilbane believes that Jeff Hendrick is finally starting to get back to the levels he displayed at Euro 2016 which earned him his move to the Premier League.

And former Ireland man Kilbane also feels that that Alan Browne, who has struggled on the international stage, can carry on his progress in the Championship this season and become a mainstay for the national team.

Hendrick's form for Ireland has been patchy in the recent Nations League and World Cup campaigns, while he also found himself out of the starting XI at Burnley for a spell, though Hendrick has defended his output with Ireland by pointing out that he was not played in his favoured position by Martin O'Neill.

But the Dubliner has been praised for his recent efforts with the Clarets and Kilbane, who played alongside Hendrick at Derby County, says he's pleased to see the revival of a key player for the national team, having seen Hendrick in the flesh in Burnley's win over Brighton last weekend.

"I was really impressed with Jeff, it was the best I've seen him in a long time, playing on the right of midfield, a different role than we'd be familiar with him playing," says Kilbane.

"I thought he was absolutely brilliant, playing a different role. He looked strong, he was carrying the ball well and he was in positions. He was impressive for them.

"I think it was good as I've seen him in a long time.

"He's played in different roles at Burnley, he's played as a No 10, an advanced midfielder, he's played in a two in midfield.

"I was impressed with everything about his game, he looked fit, he looked hungry.

"He looked to me, when I'd seen him in recent seasons, like he'd bulked up too much, he'd spent too much time in the gym.

"He may correct me on that one, but I've probably done the same myself in my career. If your form is not great, what are you doing to rectify it? 'I'll go in the gym and get fitter.'

"Maybe he wants to improve his game, which is commendable, but he's got natural attributes as it is. He's got the ability to be bombing forward, be a good box-to-box midfielder. He looked a bit leaner to me."

Kilbane keeps a close eye on Preston, his hometown team and his first senior club, where Cork native Browe has been impressive this season.

Playing from midfield, Browne is Preston's leading scorer this season, 11 goals in 27 league games.

Now 23, Browne has been capped just three times at senior level and failed to set the world alight in his starts against Turkey and France last year.

But Kilbane has high hopes for Browne heading into the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

"He's a player who might get to 27 or 28 and we'll be looking at as a main guy or a leader in our side. That's what he's got the ability to do, he's growing season on season. Having seen him so much since he got into the Preston side, I've been impressed at how versatile he is," added Kilbane.

"I've known him a long time, from when he came to Hull as a 16-year-old. Johnny Fallon put me onto him when he was at Ringmahon and you knew straight away he had something.

"I remember the first day he came to training with the first team, he went into a 50-50 with Robbie Brady, who was an established player. He went through him.

"Nick Barmby, who was the manager, immediately went 'who's that kid?'. He was only 16, but you knew straight away that he was going to have a career," added Kilbane.

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