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18th Nov 2018

Martin O’Neill criticises Jeff Hendrick over Ireland form

Robert Redmond

Jeff Hendrick

“Jeff can and should do better for us in the middle of the field which I feel is his proper position.”

Martin O’Neill has criticised Jeff Hendrick over his form for the Republic of Ireland.

According to the Ireland manager, Hendrick has failed to reproduce his form from Euro 2016, when he was one of the team’s best players and impressed against Italy and France.

O’Neill, who has won just three of his last 17 games as manager of the national team, reckons that Hendrick’s poor form has also led to him losing his place at club level.

“Jeff has not reached the heights that he did with us a couple of seasons ago and, at this minute, he’s lost his place at Burnley,” O’Neill told reporters after Thursday’s goalless draw with Northern Ireland.

“Players have to question themselves occasionally, but that’s just a natural thing they should do. Particularly the ones who are not playing regularly for their clubs.

“But, just leave that aside, we are where we are and, regardless, Jeff can and should do better for us in the middle of the field – which I feel is his proper position.

“He plays in the hole for Burnley, but when you play in that hole, at times you’ve got to be able to create, you’ve got to be able to score a few goals.

“There’s more to offer from Jeff and he’s shown that in the past for us, particularly at the Euros.”

O’Neill isn’t wrong. Hendrick’s form for Ireland has dipped over the last two years. Against Northern Ireland on Thursday night, he was largely anonymous and disappeared from the game. Unfortunately, that has occurred quite frequently in recent games.

His last notable act for the national team was to set up James McClean’s goal against Wales in the 1-0 win last October. Incidentally, that’s also the last time Ireland won a competitive match.

However, as the team have become a shapeless, incoherent rabble under the current management team, it is difficult to know who is at fault for Hendrick’s poor form – the player or the coaching staff.

The Dubliner isn’t the only Ireland player who is underperforming. And he certainly isn’t the only player who looks lost in the current set-up.

O’Neill also said that the former Derby midfielder lost his place at club level, which isn’t entirely true. The Dubliner has played in nine of Burnley’s 12 Premier League games this season, starting seven. He also appeared in all six of their Europa League matches.

But he does need to improve for Ireland. And his displays at Euro 2016 showed that he can be a big player for his country.

It remains to be seen if criticising Hendrick in public will coax better performances from him. He might benefit instead from some coaching and clear tactical instructions.