It can be difficult to assess the true quality of this Dundee team. Earlier in…
Jack Hendry has been one of the breakout stars from this season’s Scottish Premiership.
After coming through the ranks at Partick Thistle, Hendry was lured down to Wigan where things didn’t really work out for the 22-year-old. Since Neil McCann brought Hendry back to Scotland in the summer, the young centre back has played in every one of Dundee’s Premiership fixtures this season.
Hendry’s performances have seen him become a regular fixture in gossip columns with both sides of the Old Firm reportedly interested, along with a host of English Premier League teams.
Dundee are currently situated tenth in the Premiership, locked in a relegation dogfight. While it may seem counter-intuitive for a struggling side to sell one of their best players – especially when they’re a defender – it might just be better for the Dark Blues in the long term.
First things first. Let’s see how Hendry compares to McCann’s other options at centre back. Dundee have no fewer than seven central defenders on the books at Dens Park just now, although three have just one appearance between them this season; James McPake (who has been recovering from a long-term injury), Julen Extabeguren and Kostadin Gadzhalov. So, it’s only fair that we compare Hendry with his teammates who’ve actually played this season.
As we can see, Hendry wins 79% of defensive duels – only Josh Meekings has more, with Kerr Waddell just behind Hendry on 76%. Out of Dundee’s four regularly playing centre backs, Hendry actually makes the fewest interceptions per game on average and attempts the fewest aerial duels (with the second-lowest success rate of the four).
Of course, in the modern game, defenders are expected to do more than simply defend and McCann has wholeheartedly bought into this. McCann expects his defenders to be able to play the ball out from the back, so each defender’s passing statistics should be considered too.
Hendry has a passing success rate of 89%, which is impressive, yet is equalled by Meekings (who also attempts more passes per game). Even Waddell, whose success rate is lower, actually makes more successful passes per game than Hendry by virtue of attempting more: 24.2 per 90 mins, compared with Hendry’s 23.7.
Dundee fans might argue that Hendry’s presence in the squad gives them more options tactically. Indeed, McCann has played a back three at times this season but not always to great effect. However, with a back three, Dundee earn an average of 0.75 points per game: this is significantly lower than the 0.89 gained when deploying four defenders. McCann would perhaps be better off if he stuck to a back four.
Ultimately, then, the Dark Blues are in an enviable position with regards to Hendry. Keep him, and they hold on to one of Scotland’s brightest defensive prospects. Should they decide to sell, they already have capable replacements and could reinvest money from the sale in other problem positions. It’s a win-win for Dundee: the board would perhaps be wise to cash in on Hendry while his stock is high in the infamously volatile transfer market.