Martin O’Neill has revealed that a recent court case involving may have influenced Jeff Hendrick’s form, and says the Irish international should score more goals.
The 25 year old was arguably Ireland’s best performer at Euro 2016, but has struggled to replicate that impressive form at international level since then, despite plenty of strong performances for Burnley in the Premier League since joining the club in August 2016.
Hendrick was found not guilty of violent disorder (dating from 2013) by a jury at the Circuit Criminal Court earlier this month.
“Now that (the court case) it’s over and you can maybe mention it, it may well have done,” O’Neill said after making the first round FAI Cup draw in Kilkenny.
“I don’t think you want things hanging around you like that. They can be disconcerted. It’s good it’s cleared now and he can get his mind totally fixed and ready.”
The Republic of Ireland manager says he’s expecting more from both Hendrick and Robbie Brady as they mature, and claimed that Brady is still “finding his feet” at Burnley.
“His form in the Euros was fantastic and sometimes it takes a bit of time to recapture that,” he added.
“Robbie Brady as well possibly hasn’t made the impact he wanted to. He got that move from Norwich to Burnley and is still finding his feet. I’m expecting better things from them as they get older.”
Hendrick was deployed in the number 10 position in Ireland’s most recent World Cup qualifier against Austria at the Aviva in June, but struggled to influence the game in a more advanced role for the boys in green. However, O’Neill feels that the Dublin native – who has one goal in 33 senior international appearances – is capable of operating behind a striker.
“I think he can play behind strikers, and I think he should score more goals,” he stated.
“I think he’s got the ability to do that. At club level, if you’ve midfielder who can score 10-12 goals from normal play, you’ve got yourself a proper player and that’s something he can aim for. Can he sit in and do a holding job? That’s not outside his capability.
“He played in the game in Austria (Vienna last November) and was excellent in a defensive role and taking the ball forward for us but in terms of kicking on from the Euros, I think it’s been a stop-start season for him. I think he should throw the shackles off and go and play again.”