NULLIFYING the considerable threat posed by an England front four that comprised Phil Foden, Marcus Rashford, Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane proved beyond Jack Hendry and his Scotland team mates at Hampden on Tuesday night.

Foden, Bellingham and Kane all netted in the International Heritage Match to bring their hosts’ five game winning run to an end and provide them with a bit of a reality check about their place in the international pecking order.

The 3-1 reverse which Steve Clarke’s men suffered in midweek at the hands of Gareth Southgate’s superstars will not impact on their bid to reach the Euro 2024 finals in Germany next summer as it was not a competitive fixture.

Still, centre half Hendry was clearly crestfallen as he spoke to the assembled media deep in the bowels of the national stadium following the friendly. “It was a sore one, a disappointing night for us,” he said.

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The former Partick Thistle, Dundee and Celtic defender, though, will be working hard to ensure there is an improved display when Scotland play their next Group A match against Spain in Seville next month.  

“Sometimes you have to take a few setbacks to go forward,” he said. “It’s about learning from it. We will use it as a learning curve. We won’t be too down about it. We will respond the right way. 

“They are one of the best teams in the world, but we shot ourselves in the foot with the first two goals. In the second half, we were more like ourselves. But in that first half that wasn’t the Scotland team you’ve seen previously. 

“We didn’t capitalise on the chances we created in the second half. We could have punished them because they were losing balls and we had a good spell. But the first half killed us by giving them two poor goals. 

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“But these experiences can only help you, certainly. I’ll go away from it and analyse it, then try to get better from it. These are the type of players you want to play against and use to improve yourself. Kane’s goalscoring record and what he’s achieved speaks for itself. 

“England’s movement is extremely good, they interchange positions all over the pitch. And Bellingham is an extremely good player, playing for Real Madrid. I’m sure he will be one of the best players in the world for years to come. 

“It was good for us to play against that level of opposition and hopefully learn from it ahead of playing France and Spain next month. We aspire to be at that level, we’re on the right track and I think we can definitely get there.”

Hendry, who completed a transfer from Club Brugge to Al-Ettifaq in Saudi Arabia back in July, is convinced that playing his club football in the Middle East will help him to handle facing the best centre-forwards on the planet better in the future.

The 25-times capped 28-year-old has undoubtedly benefitted financially from going over to the oil-rich Gulf state. However, he has not simply moved to swell his bank balance and boost his retirement fund. He is certain that he will improve as a footballer in the coming seasons as well.

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“In my first game we played against Al Nassr, which is (Sadio) Mane and (Cristiano) Ronaldo’s team,” he said. “And we’ve also played against Al Hilal, which is (Aleksandar) Mitrovic and Neymar. So the quality out there speaks for itself. 

“These are the type of players you want to be playing against and especially at the front end of the pitch, there’s some of the best players in the world. There are players who have won the Ballon d’Or - and more than once - so I’m playing against top quality opposition out there. 

“From a defenders’ point of view, every team out there is going to have great attacking players. So for me and my development, playing against those strikers is only going to make me better. 

“It’s another experience, a different league and a different culture. And as I’ve said, coming up against some of the best players in the world will only help me in my career. It has been so far, so good.”

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Working with Steven Gerrard, the Liverpool and England great who transformed the fortunes of Rangers during his three-and-a-half years at Ibrox and led them to a 55th Scottish title back in 2021, in Dammam was also an attraction.

“I am out there with a really good manager as well,” said Hendry.  He’s someone who will be very good to learn from and I’m sure my game will improve being around the players and staff. I have a really good team around me who will help me improve.”

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When the chance to sign for Al-Ettifaq arose he called Scotland manager Clarke as he was keen to know if the move would jeopardise his prospects at international level. He received his compatriot’s blessing. 

“I spoke to the manager because I have massive respect for him and he’s given me opportunities in the national team,” he said. “So that was a quick conversation we had, it was a normal conversation. It was natural, I wanted to touch base and let him know that was the route I was probably going to go down.” 

Hendry has never been afraid to move to get game time and increase his skillset. The 6ft 5in player has plied his trade in Scotland, England, Australia, Belgium and Italy during his nomadic career to date and feels he has benefitted in some way from every experience, both good and bad, he has had. He is enjoying Saudi so far.

“Playing in different countries and experiencing different cultures before will help smooth the transition,” he said. “Being exposed to that and different languages has all helped me mature and be a better person. These learning experiences can only help you. 

“It’s obviously very warm in Saudi - but that helped me against Cyprus (in the Euro 2024 qualifier in Larnaca last week which Scotland won 3-0). The games are played in 40-odd degrees and very humid, but that will get me fitter and sharper playing in those conditions. That’s something I need to adjust to, but I feel I am adjusting to that. 

“A footballer’s life is about being very dedicated to the game. For me, it’s about trying to be as good as possible and try to win as many things as I can. To do that you have to be extremely dedicated and have the kind of life that revolves around football. 

“Obviously it’s a sacrifice moving away from the family and girlfriend, but I’m only there to try to be successful. The spare time you get is similar to back home. You can go to the cinema or the mall. It’s nice. When the weather dies down a bit I’ll be able to get out and about a bit more. But it’s so far, so good I’m enjoying it.

“You never know what can happen in future, but I have signed three years out there and am really committed to being out there just now. I am really excited by what’s happening out there and the league growing, so that’s all I’m focused on at the minute.”

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