Has Jeff Hendrick done enough to warrant a start? Chris Boden’s match verdict from Brighton

Jeff Hendrick celebrates his equaliser at Brighton
Jeff Hendrick celebrates his equaliser at Brighton

It was a week where he had to answer to criticism of his performances for his country.

And he ended it by stating a case for a more regular start for his club.

Jeff Hendrick joined the 50 club for the Republic of Ireland against Switzerland in Euro 2020 qualifying at the Aviva Stadium back home in Dublin, and then became a Premier League centurion at Brighton.

His late leveller showed the quality he possesses.

But is Jeff Hendrick a victim of his versatility, or a failure to consistently demonstrate his undoubted talents?

Hendrick was put up before the Irish media a couple of weeks ago before claiming his 50th cap, and found himself defending his form for the Republic, ever since making a huge impression at Euro 2016, where his group phase performance against Sweden at the Stade de France was described as “astonishing” by L’Equipe.

He was linked with a move to Galatasaray that summer, before he joined Burnley for a fee in excess of £10m.

However, something of an enigma, Clarets fans have all too fleetingly seen his best form, while Irish critics suggest he hasn’t scaled the same heights since.

He said in Ireland: "I hear the outside noise and people saying they haven't seen me since the Euros.

“Everyone has their own opinion, but I did play a lot of games not in the position I played in at the Euros.

"For me, I try to 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 try to do my best for the team, but like I said, it was tough. I was playing on the right, at times I was nearly up front as well, so I was just trying to adapt and just do what I can for the team.”

He was talking about his role under Martin O’Neill with Ireland, but could just as easily have been describing his time at Turf Moor.

Utilised as an out and out central midfielder, he has also played off the front as a number 10, and narrow on either side of midfield.

With high fitness levels, Hendrick is physically strong, and technically proficient, but the question still lingers as to his best role.

Current Ireland boss Mick McCarthy is in no doubt, as Hendrick revealed: "The manager said it to me when he came in. He said, 'I know you're a central midfielder', so I've played there. I've played there in the games under him and in training as well and I'm enjoying it."

For Burnley, however, he has often found himself down the pecking order in that role. Indeed, his best football for the club has arguably come tucked in from the right, over the second half of last season.

Yet to start a game for Burnley in the Premier League this season, he has had to be patient.

Boss Sean Dyche says his attitude has been spot on, although he’s not shy about knocking on the door to ask why he’s not playing: “He trains right, he’s good around the group, he’s not a moaner - he asks a question, don’t get me wrong, he’ll ask ‘what can I do, why aren’t I playing?’ and he’s really affected the game.”

Ultimately, he has to do that on a more regular basis to stay in the side.

He doesn’t score tap ins - unless they are on the end of a glorious 24-pass move at Everton two years ago.

The technique he showed to score spectacular goals against Bournemouth, Chelsea and at Brighton show what he is capable of.

But he has only two goals in 51 games for Ireland, and eight in 114 for the Clarets, with only three assists in that time.

Dyche has often praised his selflessness, and said again on Saturday: “He’s a bit unfortunate actually, Jeff, he does so many good jobs for us. Sometimes he gets questioned, and I can’t believe it, he does so many jobs for us, even today, he starts wide and comes inside, and he’s a top lad around the place, and a very good player, in my opinion.”

So has he done enough to get a start against Norwich City? You imagine so, probably at the expense of the peripheral Aaron Lennon.

And Matej Vydra and Jay Rodriguez are also pushing after helping rescue a point that looked beyond Burnley after a poor second half display.

The Clarets bossed the opening quarter of the game, with Dwight McNeil prominent, as he had a dangerous low ball scooped over his bar by left wingback Dan Burn, before Glenn Murray cleared off the line as Jack Cork chested down a knockdown from James Tarkowski, from McNeil's ball in, and sent a half volley goalwards.

It forced Graham Potter to adapt, bringing left centre back Adam Webster over to right back, and the sides seemed to cancel each other out after that, although Brighton ended the half having their best spell, as Nick Pope saved well from Solly March, who cut inside onto his left foot and fired towards the near post, before he turned Murray's measured effort round the post from Pascal Gross' pullback.

Burnley just didn’t get out of the dressing room in the second half, and when Neal Maupay volleyed in March’s left-foot centre, Tarkowski having dropped off his man, you couldn’t say it wasn’t coming.

The Seagulls failed to kill Burnley off, however, their strong jaw again evident as they stayed in the game, and just when they looked like they wouldn’t create a chance of note, at the death, Hendrick combined with Vydra, who teed him up to strike a sweet effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

More of the same please...