Burnley midfielder Jeff Hendrick happy to learn on the job in unfamiliar role

Jeff Hendrick closes down Christian Pulisic
Jeff Hendrick closes down Christian Pulisic

Midfielder Jeff Hendrick is happy to play wherever Sean Dyche asks  him if it means regular Premier League football.

Dyche has deployed Hendrick as a central midfielder, off the front, and, more recently, narrow on the right of midfield.

The manager has been full of praise for the Republic of Ireland international, who, however, had to wait until Burnley’s sixth Premier League game against Norwich City for his first league start of the season.

A typical Dyche quote on Hendrick reads: “We ask a lot of Jeff and some people question him, but he plays all over the place and continues to play hard and do a great job for us.”

Hendrick admits that is reassuring, even when not in the side: “It’s always good to hear.

“All players want that little confidence boost and when I’m not in the team I know what I need to do.

“I need to keep working hard and stay ready – think that’s the main thing here.

“You can start a game when you’re not expecting it, so you need to be ready because if you don’t take your chance you could be waiting a few weeks to get it again.”

Ireland boss Mick McCarthy sees him as an out and out central midfielder, as Hendrick said recently on international duty: “The manager said it to me when he came in. He said, 'I know you're a central midfielder', so I've played there.”

Versatile players often suffer, in that they can be seen as a jack of all trades, but Hendrick enjoys collecting more game knowledge: “I think playing in all these different positions is all part of learning.

“I get to learn a bit more about – for example if I’m playing in the middle and what a right winger would want in how to receive the ball – I know that from playing out there. It is tough to get used to but hopefully it’s helping my game.”

A wider role is another string to his bow, but he smiled:

“It’s different. I played there last year from February onwards and I had to get used to it.

“I know I’m not a wide player. I play tucked in and try and let Lowts (Matthew Lowton) go along the outside. It’s different to what I’m used to, but I’ve played a few different positions now and it’s all good for me – being versatile and playing wherever I’m put.”

Hendrick, in his fourth season at the club after a then-club record £10m-plus switch from Derby County, is out of contract in the summer, and he admits he is happy at Turf Moor, with talks ongoing over a new deal: “The talks are active, definitely. I’ve said it since I’ve come in – it’s a great group and I love coming into training every day. It’s sort of easy with the group we have and I’m enjoying my football and playing a lot of football too. The main thing is to enjoy your football – it’s not a long career so you need to make sure you enjoy every minute.”

Hendrick is expected to start at Bramall Lane tomorrow against Sheffield United, where he is familiar with the likes of Enda Stevens, John Egan and David McGoldrick teammates in the Ireland set up.

Hendrick has seen a lot of the Blades, and said: “We were all delighted when they got promoted. They’re part of our squad and we want them to do well, but I definitely don’t want them to do well on Saturday. As long as they don’t pick any knocks and we get the result we want – we will hopefully do well in the Ireland games.

“I think they’ve had a good start. They’re a bright start and are on a good run. We watched a lot of them last year as well – the same group really – and they’ve carried on that momentum and winning feeling. They’ve come into the Premier League and it looks like they’re not fearing anyone. They’re playing the same way with energy and I think they’re doing well.

“They haven’t surprised me. I watched them last year and I think people thought they couldn’t do it for the whole season, but they did and got promoted.

“They’ve gone about their business in the exact same way this year, so it doesn’t surprise when they’ve picked up points against the bigger teams.”

And there are similarities between the teams: “You talk about a tight-knit group. It looks like they’ve got a good squad morale and are all working really hard for each other. They’re all fighting for the one cause and I think that’s vital in this league – you need everyone with the same mindset and they definitely have that.”