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Highs & Lows: Isaac Hayden

11th July 2016, Newcastle United are preparing for another unwanted season in the Championship, yet buoyed by the decision from Rafa Benitez to stay on as manager. On that July day, United make a low-key signing of Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden for an undisclosed fee, believed to be around the £3million mark. Hayden, still only 21 years of age at the time, had been on loan Hull City, under current toon boss Steve Bruce, who had just secured promotion to the Premier League, thanks to another new signing that summer, Mo Diame.

Now, nearly four years into the five year deal he signed when joining, it has proved to be another Rafa Benitez bargain buy, standing up alongside deals of the likes of Fabian Schar and Martin Dubravka. Hayden has now played more than 100 games for Newcastle, and has now established himself as the first choice in the centre of midfield, despite being versatile enough to occasionally fill in at centre back and right wing back.

Hayden's time at Newcastle hasn't always been smooth sailing. Towards the end of the first season back in the Premier League, Hayden lost his regular first team spot to the in-form partnership of Mo Diame and Jonjo Shelvey. Rumours of Hayden becoming unsettled on Tyneside came to the fore, which the former Arsenal man was refreshingly open and honest about, citing personal reasons involving his daughter living down south being the sole reason he wanted a move away from the North-East.

You could forgive him that reason for wanting a move away, as some things are just way more important than football. But one thing you might not be able to forgive him for at the time, was his performance at Cardiff last season. Hayden was brought on at half time at the Cardiff City Stadium to replace the injured Javier Manquillo, but lasted little over 20 minutes after scything down Jacob Murphy in a ridiculous challenge, deserving of the red card he received. This proved to be a turning point.

Whilst many players would have gone into hiding after an incident like that, and quietly leave through the back door the following January, Isaac Hayden was different. He fronted up, apologised, worked hard on the training field, and eventually got his chance back in the first team. From then on, he has never looked back. Hayden, alongside new midfield partner at the time Sean Longstaff, received plaudits from the likes of Pep Guardiola after the home 2-1 over Manchester City, and has proved to be a mainstay in the team when fit ever since.

Reports now say that Hayden's personal issues away from Tyneside have calmed, and the player is once again happy and settled at Newcastle United, which really is great news. A new contract should be in the offing to extend the midfielders stay, as he is clearly an important part in new manager Steve Bruce's engine room.

For me personally, I would love to see Isaac Hayden eventually get a chance in the England setup, as I rate him higher than the likes of Harry Winks and Eric Dier in particular. If he continues his development, as he is still not the finished article, then he surely cannot be ignored by Gareth Southgate in the future.

#newcastlefanstv #newcastleunited #IsaacHayden #RafaBeintez #SteveBruce

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