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Jeff Hendrick Joins On Loan From Newcastle United

Reading have further bolstered their midfield with a Premier League loanee.

Newcastle United v Cambridge United: The Emirates FA Cup Third Round Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images

You wait ages for a central midfielder and two arrive in a matter of days. After Tyrese Fornah joined the Royals on loan late last week, Jeff Hendrick has become Reading’s fifth addition of the summer. He’s also agreed a season-long loan deal, in this case from Newcastle United.

The 30-year-old Irishman will bring plenty of experience to the club. Having come through at Derby County, where he was a regular in the Championship before being snapped up by Burnley in 2016, he’s spent the last two years on Tyneside. Last season however, in search of regular football, he went on loan to Queens Park Rangers.

This move was briefly teased last week, with The Daily Mail reporting Reading’s interest. However, while we were all focused on triallists over the weekend and the ongoing possibility of a return for Shane Long, Hendrick’s move was edging closer.

Head of football operations Mark Bowen told the official site:

“Jeff is a vastly experienced midfielder who has spent the large part of his career playing Premier League and international football. Importantly, he also knows what it takes to compete in the Championship and I am delighted he has joined us for 2022/23.”

While Paul Ince added:

“Jeff is a midfielder I have admired for a long period of time. He has the ability and experience to play in a number of roles across the midfield, he works hard, he wins the ball back, he can pick a pass and he can score goals too. A player of his experience will prove so important for this club going into the challenge of the Championship this season.”

So - an experienced midfielder who can add some steel and grit. Those traits will be useful for Reading’s midfield, which otherwise looked a bit lightweight in the absence of Josh Laurent and Andy Rinomhota. Hendrick should form a nice balance with younger, more technical options such as Fornah (the deep-lying midfielder) and Ovie Ejaria (the most advanced).

In a piece from March 2018 (Forensically watching an ordinary player: Jeff Hendrick), Football365 noted Hendrick’s qualities as being his energy, touch, tactical awareness and passing. So he should also be able to bring composure to Reading’s midfield and improve our game management, which was so often a problem last season.

As Ince says though, Hendrick is versatile. He previously partnered another midfielder in Burnley’s 4-4-2 so may be able to now play a similar role here if that’s what Reading require. The Football365 piece adds though that Hendrick was also used as the most advanced central midfielder when Burnley moved to a five-man midfield for the following reason:

“You have someone who gets to the ball and keeps the attack going, while himself only rarely creating or scoring goals. In other words, his most frequent task is to recycle the ball in an advanced position.”

(Emphasis is theirs).

Given Ince’s tendency to move Laurent upfield as a different kind of number 10 last season, I wonder if we could see Hendrick deployed in a similar way at Reading. That’s unlikely to be a regular thing, given the presence of Ejaria, but it’s a potential plan B to keep an eye out for.

At this stage I’d still like a couple more central midfielders. Reading currently only have Ejaria, Fornah, Hendrick and Dejan Tetek as specialist options in this department, although Tom Ince and Tom McIntyre can step in if required. Cover for deep-lying Fornah would be handy and could arrive in the form of triallist Sam Hutchinson, and another energetic ball-winner would also be a sensible addition.