One of the big success stories of the Euros for Ireland, Jeff Hendrick now goes into the World Cup campaign as the country’s latest Premier League footballer, after Burnley broke their club record to sign the Dubliner from Derby County.
“I’m delighted I got the move,” he said, speaking from the top table at yesterday’s pre-match press conference in Belgrade. “After the summer I had, I wanted a crack at the Premier League. I’m happy it’s done.
“The summer? It was great. It was what I dreamt of as a kid, to play in a tournament. I got a bit of downtime after it and then it was straight back into the hard work. And that’s what I’ve got to continue doing, working hard. With my new club, I’ll probably have to work harder as well. It’s exciting times but I’ve got to focus on this game now.
“Certainly, I can take confidence from the Euros, definitely. But it is wiped clean a little bit because this is a new group, a new challenge. I’ll take the confidence from it and to perform even better.”
And that target includes finally opening his international goal account.
“I accept that,” he said. “I go into games and I’m trying to play my best and I do try to score goals. I’ve scored goals in the past, it’s a great feeling to have, and something I’m working on. Hopefully, I can get more.”
Martin O’Neill said he too hoped Hendrick’s move to the Premier League would reap further benefits for the midfielder.
“Naturally, I hope so,” he said. “Derby is a very fine club and they’ve been knocking on the door over the last couple of years but just haven’t been able to get over the line into the Premier League, and Burnley have come along now.
“It’s a big move for Jeff, it’s Premier League football for him and I’m sure he’s very excited about it, but obviously he leaves that to the side now. He got the deal through before transfer deadline so now it’s total concentration on this match (against Serbia). But, overall, I think that Jeff should prove himself in the Premier League.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill yesterday once again sought to play down any significance in the fact that, as the new campaign kicks off, he has still to sign his verbally agreed contract with the FAI.
When questioned about the situation earlier in the week, Roy Keane insisted it was not something he found disconcerting.
“For the media, yeah… but not from the staff point of view,” he was quoted as saying in the Sunday papers. “We’ll be dictated by what the manager does, and the manager I think has made it clear to the media that he’s happy, that he’s staying on.
“I think it’s been pretty straightforward, I think Martin’s always been, going back to his contracts at club level, he’s been quite blase about it. I’m not far behind him on that but, from our point of view, once the manager signs the contract… he’s shook hands, everything’s agreed.
”It’s never been an issue for me, the contract, it honestly doesn’t keep me away at night, the contract stuff. It’s agreed, we’ve shook hands on it, that’s fine with me.”
However, when asked why there was a delay, Keane raised some eyebrows with his reply. “Do you know what… do I know the ins and outs of it? I’ve got an idea but I’m not going to say too much.”
At his press conference in Belgrade, O’Neill claimed he was unaware of those comments, and once again seemed content to give the impression the deal will be inked in due course.
“I don’t think there are any real particular issues and it’s just a matter of getting around to it,” he said. “I said this before. When I took the job in the first place, I agreed it with John Delaney, and it might have been six or seven weeks before I eventually ended up signing something. That’s not that important at this minute. It is in other aspects of, course, (but) there’s no particular reason for hold-ups.”
Hull City are the latest club O’Neill’s name has been linked in the media but when asked yesterday if it was still his intention to stay in the Ireland job should a Premier League club come calling for him now, he replied: “I don’t see why not. I’ve enjoyed this immensely. “
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