Jack Hendry played just three games in 2019-20 but turning out for Scotland at the Euro 2020 finals was among his pre-season goals.
The defender could now play his way into contention after joining up with Steve Clarke’s squad ahead of World Cup qualifiers against Austria, Israel and the Faroe Islands.
The former Dundee player made three Scotland appearances in 2018 after joining Celtic earlier in that year.
But 2019 brought just two Celtic appearances, and a loan move to Melbourne City in January 2020 quickly turned sour when he suffered a knee injury two matches in.
‘Hopefully I’m on the right road’
Hendry has since rejuvenated his career on loan at Oostende, who sit fourth in the Belgian top flight, and his Euro 2020 dream is firmly in sight.
“One of my goals at the start of the season was to achieve something like that and hopefully I’m on the right road to do that,” the 25-year-old said.
“Coming off a difficult time for myself, I had to back myself to go out and do the business.
“Thankfully I have been given an opportunity out in Belgium to showcase my talent. I still have a long way to go to reach my full potential but I feel I am on the right course.
“I feel it shows a lot about my mentality, coming back from setbacks, going out to an unknown and coming back strong. Hopefully that shows people a lot about my character.
“For me, my biggest achievement in my career so far was pulling on the Scotland jersey, so it’s something I am desperate to do again.”
Hendry feels he has become a better player and person through coping with major setbacks.
“There’s been a couple,” he said. “Coming off the back of Celtic where I wasn’t playing so much, had a couple of niggly injuries, maybe thinking I could have been playing and getting that fair crack of the whip.
“It just didn’t pan out at times.
“I tried to go to Australia, just to get away from everything, be in a good environment, get my mojo back, and two weeks out there I did my medial ligament.
“I was thinking ‘is this injury going to define my career?’ I just thought ‘I really need to focus here and come back and show people what I’m made of’.
“I used that time to work on my body, to work mentally, and come back all guns blazing. Thankfully it’s paying off.
“If you spoke to anyone in Belgium, they would see me as that kind of leader in the dressing room and a good person hopefully.”
Hendry has been playing in the centre of a back three for Oostende and feels the formation, which Clarke has recently employed for Scotland, suits him.
“I feel I have developed in these last six months in Belgium,” he added.
“First and foremost I have games under my belt consistently, coming off the back of a couple of years when I didn’t play so much. With the games you learn so much.
“And if you look at the Belgian league, there are some top teams in it. And even the teams you might not know, they have good quality forward players.
A big game for Jack Hendry and Oostende against Mouscron in Belgium this evening as they look to keep hold of their top-four status ahead of the international break. 🏴🇧🇪 pic.twitter.com/8WQGfcaSXu
— Byron Hutchison (@ByronHutchison) March 20, 2021
“Playing against international strikers helps coming into a squad like this. I am used to playing at that level and I feel I can play at that level and can go further.
“We have the third best defence in Belgium and for that team it’s a massive achievement.
“Defensively I am more solid, my reading of the game, my confidence on the ball, but first and foremost as a defender you need to defend, and I feel I have shown that in Belgium.
“I feel I have competed at a real good level against top strikers and if anyone who has watched those games, they can see how good a defender I can be.”
‘I would be ready to thrive in an environment like that’
Oostende have an option to buy Hendry this summer but need to agree personal terms, and he could yet remain a Celtic player.
Hendry refused to look beyond his next game but, reflecting on his time at Parkhead, he said: “First and foremost, you have got to look at yourself, and what you could have done better.
“There are obviously external factors that might come into play. But I am just looking forward now.
“I have learned from it and I feel if I was to get an opportunity of that stature again, I would be ready to thrive in an environment like that.”