CALLUM Hendry suffered two cruciate ligament injuries before his 18th birthday but St Johnstone’s young striker has endured much worse in his personal life.

The son of former Blackburn Rovers, Rangers and Scotland defender Colin, tragically lost his mother, Denise, to meningitis seven years after routine cosmetic surgery went badly wrong.

Having been released by the Ewood Park club after 11 years in their youth system, 19-year-old Hendry is now rebuilding his career at St Johnstone and manager Tommy Wright has been so impressed, he handed the teenager a debut from the bench in last weekend’s 4-1 win against Motherwell.

It is early days yet but Hendry is allowing himself to dream that he can emulate his father, who won 51 caps. He may have been born south of the border but the striker, whose hopes of a schoolboy call-up were wrecked by an untimely injury, admits there is tartan in his DNA.

“At whatever level, I would love to put a Scotland top on. That’s the pinnacle for me,” he said. “I have always thought about that. It would mean the world to my dad. So does putting a Saints top on. But a Scotland shirt would make a lot of people proud.

“I’m getting stick from the boys here for having a posh accent. But if I had the choice I would never, ever put an England top on, never. I was born in Blackburn when my dad was there, but I am Scottish.”

He might be following in his father’s famous footsteps, but it has been far from plain sailing for the teenager.

“I did my cruciate at 15 in my last year at school and then went on loan to non league side Clitheroe and did it again when I was 17. It was my last game on loan and I’d just scored the winner when I was clattered and my knee fell apart.

“I thought that was it for me, football wasn’t the right path. But when I started my rehab I thought I’d be back fit in no time. The physios at Blackburn were amazing and my old man was looking after me and advising me.

“I have been through a lot worse in my life than just an injury. After dark days, as soon as I got going again on the treadmill and the cycling I knew I was going to be alright. I wanted to give it everything I could.”

The loss of his mother, when she was 43, inevitably took its toll and he continues to support the charitable foundation created by older sister Rheagan in memory of Denise and the Meningitis Trust.

“I was young, only 12 when it happened and I took a year out from Blackburn’s Academy,” he said. “My dad gave me the option and I said I wouldn’t mind a break. There was no time to be on my own with school and training at night. Dad thought I needed a social life after everything that happened.

“Mentally it was important after everything I had been through. It helped me in a lot of ways. But football and getting on the pitch was the only place I could go and not worry about anything. As long as I was playing I was happy and the

injuries have made me not take football for granted. You only get one career.”

Hendry wasn’t aware of his dad’s successful career, including leading Scotland to the 1998 World Cup, when he was growing up.

“My dad had retired and was coaching at Clyde and Blackpool. I wish I had been old enough to see him play but I can watch videos and motivate myself from them.

“My dad has been the biggest influence, a backbone for me and my sisters and brother. We couldn’t have asked for more. He had a hard time after mum passed away but I wouldn’t be where I am without him.

“I thought it would be trickier when I signed a professional contract. I thought he would involve himself more. But he has always taken a step back. If I need advice I ask him. I know he is always there for me. We talk every day.”

Hendry is relishing the opportunity he has been given at McDiarmid Park, with Wright predicting the teenager will emerge as a first-team player this season.

“I have enjoyed every minute of it here, the football and the lifestyle,” said Hendry. “It’s a family orientated club. There was a hierarchy at Blackburn. Being released was hard but it has motivated me more and the move here has done me a world of good.

“I want to play as many games as I can for the first team now. I want to achieve something in Scotland, just like my old man. This is where he started out. I want a good career and I am at the right club.

“Making my mum and dad proud is the biggest motivation I have. She would have loved to have seen me playing football. I remember when I was six or seven at Blackburn and playing seven-a-side. Every time I looked over she was standing in the corner watching with a big furry coat on, a big furry hat and a cup of tea. Seeing me play first-team football would have meant so much to her so it really drives me to make it happen. Anything I do will be for my family, and be because of them.”