Midfielder backs squad to cope with loss of key man

Tomorrow's return of Andre Gray is a reminder how Burnley have bounced back from losing key players.

Friday, 8th December 2017, 10:30 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 1:00 am
Jeff Hendrick

And Jeff Hendrick expects that to continue after losing best mate Robbie Brady to injury for the rest of the season.

Gray is back at Turf Moor with Watford after an £18m summer move, while the Clarets also saw Michael Keane leave for Everton in a deal which could be worth £30.

But Burnley have defied the pundits who expected them to struggle, and tomorrow’s game sees seventh host eighth in a battle of the Premier League’s surprise packages.

Hendrick points to the likes of Phil Bardsley and Nick Pope stepping in for Matt Lowton and skipper Tom Heaton, and said: “We said it last year and we said it this year – we have a great group of players who stick together.

“People are obviously disappointed when they’re not playing but they’re still ready to help the starting XI to prepare for games, and they get themselves ready if they’re called upon.

“You’ve seen in certain games players coming on and making the difference.

“Popey has been waiting a long time now and since he’s come in he’s been brilliant for us.

“Phil Bardsley has been waiting and I think he’s been brilliant as well.

“That’s what we need to keep doing to keep getting points on the board to get to where we want to.”

Scott Arfield is expected to come in for Brady, and Hendrick added: “You saw last year he was in and out of the team but whenever he played he was ready to go.

“He came on at the weekend and who knows for this weekend? But whenever people are called on, they’ve got to be ready.”

Hendrick intends to try and keep Brady’s spirits up, with the boyhood pals living close together since they both made the switch to Burnley: “He knows he’s going to be in the gym a lot and he knows he’s going to have stuff to work on to build his leg and knee. He will focus on that.

“He’s got his family around him and the lad, his friends, will be there for him. I think he knows he’s got to crack on and get fit again.

“The start was getting the surgery and then getting back walking first. But then once he’s doing that, and you start to see those little bits of progress, that will spur him on and keep him going.

“You could see the confidence in his game, the team was playing a lot of football, and he was getting into pockets, getting on the ball, creating chances, and the goal he scored against Bournemouth topped it off.

“So it is unfortunate timing but it’s done now and he’s got to get his head around it and move forward.

“We were gutted for him. I could see the pain in his face when he went down and it wasn’t a nice feeling.

“He knew himself. But I’ve been around to see him, had a cup of tea with him, and just chatted, and just to be there for him.

“It is obviously terrible news. I’ve been speaking to him a lot the last few days and he knows all the lads are there for him. Everyone gets on so he knows we will be there to help him out.”