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Tuesday 17 July 2018

Rodgers backs Celtic's Hendry for big things

22-year-old centre-back Jack Hendry
22-year-old centre-back Jack Hendry

Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers believes Jack Hendry could be at the heart of Scotland’s defence for the next 10 years.

The 22-year-old centre-back, who arrived at Parkhead from Dundee at the end of January on a four-and-a-half-year deal for a reported fee of around £1.5million, made his international debut for Alex McLeish’s side in the 1-0 friendly win over Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday night.

Central defence has long been thought of as a weak area for Scotland but Rodgers believes Hendry could be part of the answer.

“Jack came in from Dundee and settled in very well,” said the Northern Irishman ahead of tomorrow’s Scottish Premiership clash at home to Ross County. Rodgers is equally pleased to have seen 19-year-old defender Kristoffer Ajer make his Norway debut against Australia in the international break and then keep his place against Albania.

“Jack has the qualities to play for Celtic and the international team for the next 10 years or so.

“His profile suits the highest level. He is quick, he can defend and in international football it is important that you can deal with the ball and I think you’ve seen his comfort.

“For a player making his first appearance away from home in the international stage, he was very composed and looked as if he had played a lot more games than what he has done.

“He has a real belief in his ability. It’s not an arrogance or overly confident. He just knows that he is a good player who has more to improve on.

“But he has those special qualities that you need to play at the highest level.

“The great thing with Jack is that he wants to learn and keep improving and likewise for Kristoffer Ajer.

“He came here as a centre midfielder but we felt he could have a more successful career if he could play from behind.

“So for him, at 19 years of age, to come in and do what he has done at Celtic, and to play two 90 minute games for Norway, I think he has a great career ahead of him.

“I am delighted for both boys to make those first caps being so young.”

Rodgers is also pleased to have Leigh Griffiths available again for the Premiership visit of rock-bottom County. The striker has been sidelined since the end of January with a calf injury.

“He has been training well for the last couple of weeks so he will be available for selection,” said the former Swansea and Liverpool boss.

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