Michael Stewart has claimed on BBC show Sportsound that Hearts centre-back John Souttar is a better defender than Celtic’s Jack Hendry.
The pundit and former Hibernian player slammed Hendry on the BBC Radio Scotland programme on Tuesday night (14 August) in the immediate aftermath of the Hoops’ Champions League exit.
The Celtic January signing struggled as he played the full 90 minutes of his side’s 2-1 defeat to AEK Athens, which ended the visitors’ hopes of making the group stages of Europe’s leading competition for the first time in Brendan Rodgers’ tenure.
Speaking on BBC Sportsound, Stewart said: “Jack Hendry all of a sudden instantly became a Scotland cap. I look at John Souttar for example at Hearts.
“There was big criticism about him gifting opportunities and goals. That side of Souttar’s game has dramatically improved. You know what? At this moment in time I think I would play John Souttar ahead of Jack Hendry.
“I’m not for a single second saying Celtic should be going out and buying John Souttar and he’s the solution to all of their problems.
“I am just meaning and this is the bigger context about recruitment. I at the time was thinking to myself Jack Hendry for Celtic? Is that what they need?”
With Dedryck Boyata doing his level best to engineer an exit from Celtic and Kristoffer Ajer suspended for the second leg against AEK, Rodgers had no choice but to pair Jozo Simunovic and Hendry in the centre of defence. It was not a partnership that looked solid or of the requisite level for a club on the verge of the Champions League group stages. That Celtic ultimately missed out was due to their fragility at the back. In truth, the centre-back options have been pinpointed as the team’s weakest link all year, even when Boyata was playing regular as the senior player in that position. Hendry was signed in January but the late developer is too green to be wearing the Hoops shirt every week. Quite why Celtic haven’t strengthened in this position is something of a mystery, and not a question that Brendan Rodgers appears to have the answer for. Hendry might eventually be a fine centre-back but he has much improving to do.