WITH no World Cup finals to look forward to this summer, no manager in charge of the Scotland team and no chief executive at the helm of the Scottish Football Association, there isn’t exactly a great deal of positivity swirling around the national game at the moment.

But for Brendan Rodgers the emergence of Jack Hendry, the young Dundee defender who com-pleted a £1.5 million move to Celtic in the final hours of the January transfer window on Wednes-day night, is cause to be optimistic about the future.

This country arguably hasn’t had a top class centre half, no disrespect to Christophe Berra, Gordon Greer, Grant Hanley, Russell Martin and Charlie Mulgrew, since Davie Weir retired from interna-tional football eight years ago.

Rodgers, though, firmly believes that Hendry, the 6ft 3in 22-year-old who has signed a four year deal with the Parkhead club, can represent his country in what has been something of a problem position for some time and, what is more, can do so with distinction.

“In Jack Hendry, I believe we’ve signed someone who is, potentially, a brilliant centre-half not only for Celtic but for Scotland,” said Rodgers. “He’s 22, 6ft 3in and super-quick, he can defend well and play football and, if he can deal with the pressure and scrutiny and expectation of being a Celtic player, he can go a long way.”

Hendry has been likened to John Stones, the £50 million England and Manchester City centre half, due to his ball-playing style, pace, physicality and reading of the game and his new manager believes the comparison is deserved.

Rodgers, who is hoping to help his team challenge for the Ladbrokes Premiership trophy and William Hill Scottish Cup as well as feature in the Europa League games against Zenit St Petersburg in the remaining games of the 2017/18 campaign, can only envisage him improving further now that he has the opportunity to win trophies and play in Europe.

Asked if he could fill the centre half position for Scotland in future, the Northern Irishman said: “There’s no question he could fill it. He just needs experience now and he’s going to get big-game experience here every single week that he plays. With Celtic, every meeting is a big game.

“The ideal characteristics for international football are physicality, speed, power, technique, the ability to read a game tactically and the right mentality. Jack has all of those attributes and what we intend to do is to allow them to grow naturally.”

Hendry, who spent eight years at Celtic as a kid, only completed his dream transfer to Parkhead at the very last minute as Dundee, who he joined from Wigan last summer, played hardball over his fee.

The Dens Park club were keen to take the player back on loan until the end of the season, but Rodgers, who allowed Lewis Morgan to return to St Mirren after signing him this month, declined their request.

The Glasgow-born player faces stiff competition for a start with Kristoffer Ajer, Dedryck Boyata, Marvin Compper and Jozo Simunovic all at his new club, but his manager is confident he will fea-ture.

“ I felt that I wanted him in now because the next six months will be important for him in terms of bedding in and understanding the culture here,” he said. “Plus, because of the systems we play – we swing from three centre-halfs to four defenders – he can play in a couple of positions.”

Rodgers, who was impressed by Hendry when his side played against Dundee at Parkhead back in October, paid tribute to his opposite number Neil McCann for having the courage to play a positive and attacking style of play which allowed him to develop as a footballer.

“Jack’s done a great job at Dundee and I give credit to Neil for the way he’s got his side playing be-cause it showcases talents like Jack,” he said. “By asking your team to have the courage to play football then players like Jack can exhibit their qualities.”

Rodgers admitted that it remains to be seen whether the former Dundee United and Partick Thistle youth, who only has 41 games of senior football under his belt, will be able to cope with the pressure of being a player at a high-profile club like Celtic.

However, he expressed confidence the player, who will be hoping to make his debut in the Ladbrokes Premiership match against Kilmarnock at Rugby park this afternoon, will be able to handle the scrutiny he will be under and the demands on him to perform well on a consistent basis.

“You can only do your homework and speak to as many people as you possibly can, but you can never gauge totally until the player comes in,” he said. “Pressure, scrutiny, expectation, these are all things when you play for a club like Celtic and you never know that until they come in.

“He looks to me personally like he can cope, because when I’ve seen him in the big games, he’s played well in them, so that tells you he’s got that temperament and the concentration goes up. What you find when you’re a Celtic player is every game is a big game.”