JACK Hendry is hoping to keep Wigan Athletic on the Wembley trail this weekend – and in doing so maintain his personal 100 per cent record.
Latics entertain Barnsley at the DW, knowing a win would set up a JPT northern area final clash against either Fleetwood or Morecambe.
Solid wins over Crewe (3-2) and Blackpool (4-0) in the previous rounds have been Hendry’s only taste of first-team football since joining from Partick Thistle in the summer.
And the 20-year-old is hoping to get the nod from boss Gary Caldwell to extend that sequence this weekend.
“The JPT’s been good for me so far, I’ve played in both the games and hopefully we can keep the run going,” he told the Evening Post.
“Obviously the first game at Crewe, I was stepping in after not playing for a month or so and I was a bit rusty.
“I was more myself in the second game against Blackpool, and hopefully I can keep that up if the manager puts me in again against Barnsley.”
The clean sheet against the Tangerines also gave Hendry a great deal of confidence, in a pivotal role at the heart of the defence.
“Obviously, I’m still young – 20 – and it is a pretty difficult position to come in and stake your claim,” he acknowledged.
“There’s not many young centre-halves out there playing regular first-team football, so any chance to show I’m good enough to do a job in the league is great experience for me.
“The clean sheet certainly helps, and that’s our goal as defenders and goalkeepers – it’s basically as good as strikers scoring a goal.
“That’s what you’re aiming for, and when the boys up front chip in with a few goals it makes it the perfect game.”
The wins over Crewe and Blackpool mean only two hurdles stand between Latics and a return to Wembley.
“Everyone’s been talking about it in the dressing room, and it’s great incentive for the team to be aiming for that,” Hendry admitted.
“Obviously given the history with Wigan – the fans thinking it’s their second home – we’d love to get there for everyone not just ourselves.
“Every game we play in is going to be hard, but obviously with it being a home tie it goes in our favour.
“Our home form so far has been very good, and Barnsley will be looking at it as a very hard game.
“It’s going to be a hard game for us, and all we can do is keep our head down and hopefully it pans out right.”
Hendry has certainly come a log way since July, when an impressive performance for Partick in a pre-season friendly against Latics led to a deadline-day transfer.
“It’s crazy how things can change so quickly,” Hendry recognised.
“When you get the opportunity, as I did at Partick Thistle, you’ve just got to prove yourself.
“I felt I did that up there, and now I have this opportunity here it’s up to me to prove a few more things.
“I feel I’m settled now. I’ve moved down from Scotland into my first home on my own, and it’s a lot different.
“You’re experiencing a lot of things you didn’t know about before, but I’m getting used to my new surroundings and a new life.
“I’ve been back to Scotland once or twice and I’ve had friends and family come down to see me since I’ve been here. This is a big opportunity for me, and I’m determined to show the club and the fans I can be a good fit here.”
Hendry is also looking to continue the Tartan production line – including the likes of James McCarthy and James McArthur – that has served Latics so well in recent years.
“It’s definitely something I’m looking at trying to continue,” he added. “I look at those guys as real role models, and people to try to emulate.
“They’ve played in the Premier League for Wigan and that’s what I want to do in the future.
“I say to myself that if they can do it, there’s no reason why I can’t do it as well.
“I’ve got a long-term contract here, and I want to be a Wigan Athletic player for many years, hopefully going up through the leagues and back into the Premier League.”