Next week sees the release of long-awaited Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. In one of the final episodes of the iconic series, Paulie Gaultieri’s penchant for reminiscing leads Tony Soprano to remark “'Remember when Jack Hendry played for Celtic?’ is the lowest form of conversation”. 

When the episode first aired in 2007, viewers were understandably confused. In 2021, however, it stands as one of the show’s most prescient lines.

We’re still only five games into the new Premiership campaign but we can already add ‘remember when Jack Hendry played for Celtic?’ to ‘remember when Craig Gordon played for Celtic?’ after that arose when the keeper made a couple of outstanding saves as Hearts beat Ange Postecoglou’s side 2-1 in the season opener at Tynecastle. 

It’s feared that we’re only two Brighton man of the match awards away from ‘remember when Shane Duffy played for Celtic?’.

There are people on Twitter who will tell you that Celtic fans ruthlessly hounded a future Paolo Maldini from the club, and there are others who will insist that Hendry’s performances against Austria and Paris Saint-Germain were ‘stopped clocks are right twice a day’ moments from a player who will never amount to anything. 

Twitter, of course, doesn’t really deal in nuance. It’s entirely possible that Hendry just wasn’t good enough in his time at Celtic Park, and that he is now a very good player who has improved considerably in the last couple of years.

Rather than stagnating in Scottish football, Hendry has tested himself in Australia and Belgium. He’s undoubtedly a better defender for it and, as evidenced by his performance against the likes of Marko Arnautovic, he has the potential to be a key figure in Scottish football over the next decade. 

Dick Rowe of Decca Records is remembered as the man who reportedly turned down the Beatles - but he didn’t turn down Rubber Soul, Revolver and Abbey Road. He turned down a bunch of young guys playing ramshackle cover versions. Rowe would go on to sign the Rolling Stones but if you Google him the first article that comes up is entitled ‘The man who rejected the Beatles’. 

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Of course, Hendry will never be football’s Beatles. But he’s already being talked about as The One That Got Away. In fairness, Hendry could probably write Octopus’ Garden, but Ringo Starr could never pocket Lionel Messi in the Champions League.

There was very little, however, about Hendry’s performances at Celtic that suggested he was capable of one day keeping Messi quiet. Not to mention Neymar and Mbappe.

That’s not a slight on the player Hendry is now. Two things can be true at once. In this case, Celtic were right to believe they had better options than Hendry and Hendry is a very good defender who has improved considerably since he left Celtic.

No amount of revisionism can convince fans who watched his 27 appearances for the club that he screamed ‘future star’. Hendry deserves immense credit for the significant improvement in his game, but suggesting he deserved to be a regular in Neil Lennon’s side smacks of revisionism.

Pondering the road less travelled can be tempting. A relationship ends, you see them years later with someone else and only remember the good times. There was a reason your relationship ended, though. 

After a season of Vasilis Barkas, Scott Bain and Conor Hazard, it’s natural for Celtic fans who’ve watched Craig Gordon deny them a point to wonder what might have been. In the cold light of day, however, few of them shed a tear when the keeper left, and the same is true of their reaction to Hendry’s departure. 

It’s not ‘The One That Got Away’. It’s ‘The One That Got Much Better After He Went Away’.

But where’re the retweets in that?