During an exclusive interview with Nothing But Newcastle, former Toon defender Steve Howey has criticised summer signing Jeff Hendrick.
What did he say?
When asked what he made of the Irish international’s time at the club so far, Howey didn’t hold back and lamented the 29-year-old’s actions that lead to his sending off during the win over Southampton at St. James’ Park earlier this month.
“First of all, the send that off was embarrassingly bad,” he said.
“I think Hendrick did let himself, the team and the manager down. Stupid really.
“It was a major plus that they could see that game out. I don’t think there was a major issue there so I was a bit frustrated at what he did.”
Is he right?
Hendrick’s silly two yellow cards stretched Newcastle’s already depleted resources even further and it was lucky they were up against a side on an equally miserable run of form. Had they ultimately lost that game, as they easily could when you consider Danny Ings hit the woodwork, the threat of relegation would loom even larger over St. James’ Park.
Should Hendrick come back into the team?
At the moment, it’s hard to see where he would fit in.
Though Steve Bruce has afforded him 16 starts this season, Joe Willock’s good start to life on Tyneside should increase competition for places. With Jonjo Shelvey – as difficult a season as he is enduring – still one of the club’s most creative passers (averaging 1.3 key passes per game via WhoScored, the highest of any regular starter), there will only be one place in midfield left.
Given Hendrick has proven to be a liability, surely it makes sense to either play Isaac Hayden there if defensive injuries permit. If not, Matty Longstaff has impressed at times this season, so perhaps affording him another chance could freshen things up slightly.
With plenty of options available to Bruce in the midfield department, he may face a fight to work his way back into the side.