FREDERIC FRANS was convinced Jack Hendry had the world at his feet after one pre-season friendly.
Now he has backed his former Partick Thistle teammate to fulfil that potential in Belgium.
Hendry, lining up alongside Frans in the heart of defence, turned in a dominating display for the Jags against Wigan Athletic in the summer of 2015.
The match finished 1-1 but Hendry’s performance ensured the scouts were soon flocking to Firhill. He completed a shock transfer to the Latics just six weeks later, having made just five senior appearances for Thistle.
While he didn’t expect his partnership with Hendry to be so fleeting, Frans always knew he was destined for bigger things.
The Belgian defender recalled: “I was the only fit centre-back for a pre-season game against Wigan so we had to turn to Jack in a fixture that should have been tough for a young player.
“He was absolutely fantastic beside me. I was looking across thinking ‘this is something special’.
“That’s where it all started – suddenly there were so many scouts every time he played and he left Partick Thistle very quickly.
“You could see all the ingredients were there. He was fast, strong, could pass the ball to start attacks and he was a confident character.
“I was surprised that he was gone so soon, but I always knew he would leave to play for big clubs.”
Hendry made just three appearances for Wigan and found himself out of favour when Gary Caldwell, the man who signed him, was axed. Loan stints at MK Dons and Shrewsbury followed.
He reinvigorated his career during a dazzling 2017/18 campaign with Dundee and earned a £1.5 million switch to Celtic.
However, Hendry has only played 27 games for the Hoops and a recent loan switch to Melbourne City turned sour when he ruptured knee ligaments.
And Frans, who will be facing Hendry in the Pro League next term if his Beerschot VA side can defeat OH Leuven in their promotion playoff on August 2, reckons the season-long switch to Oostende will suit him down to the ground.
He continued: “What I saw in Jack, and what convinced Brendan Rodgers to sign him for Celtic, was how good he was in possession and I expect him to show that quality in Belgium. It is a good choice for Jack to relaunch his career.
“The game in Scotland is 200MPH and, although I would not criticise the standard of football, it can be frantic.
“Whereas, Jack will really enjoy the style of football over here. It is more focused on playing out from the back, he will have time in possession and it is less physical than in Scotland.”
With it looking increasingly unlikely that Hendry will have a long-term future, Frans is adamant he could not have picked a better league to use as a shop window.
He continued: “Belgium has a great reputation due to the success of the national team, it is at the heart of Europe and the league is renowned for exporting players to big clubs.
“Look around some of the biggest teams in Europe and you see players who passed through Belgium – not just Belgian players, but top talents like Wilfried N’Didi at Leicester.
“The scouts are always watching and it is a good stepping stone.
“If Jack does not go back to Celtic then this season at Oostende will be the perfect platform for another big opportunity.”
Frans also offered the lowdown on Hendry’s new club, painting a picture of an ambitious outfit who are determined to halt several years of struggles after securing new owners in the form of American-based investment fund Pacific Media Group.
He added: “Jack has joined a very interesting club. Oostende have struggled for the last few years but they have got new owners and are basing their philosophy on a club like Brighton or Brentford – using data and technology.
“They are an ambitious club. You never quite know how things will work out with new owners, but they have said all the right things.
“They have a nice stadium, really good fans and Ostend is a nice place to live, just beside the coast.”