Without doubt one of the best pound for pound signings Rafa Benitez made was Isaac Hayden. It could even be argued that at just over £2m Hayden was an absolute steal and one of the club’s biggest bargains ever.
I doubt many had heard of him when he arrived on a 5-year deal back in July 2016 as one of the young players Rafa wanted to help shape his Championship challenge. It’s fair to say that the tall languid midfielder was a huge success as he anchored the engine room as we powered to promotion.
Then there was many that thought he didn’t quite have enough to be a regular Premier League player. I think he’s proved the doubters wrong as his tough tackling intelligent and hard-working displays have shown.
He’s a ball winner of the type that is a dying breed in today’s footballing style but one that is worthy of his place and one that is beginning to make others sit up and talk about big things for him as he develops into his prime. Remember he’s only just turned 25!
Perhaps we don’t want to get too carried away but there’s no doubting that as well as the likes of Ritchie, Joelinton and especially Saint Maximin who all sparkled on Sunday, Hayden matched them all for carrying out his role so effectively. He covered every blade of grass and also did a solid job in keeping Jack Grealish quiet last night.
He’s not mug on the ball too. When he gets it, he gives it simply and effectively. At 6’ 2” he seems to glide across the pitch and certainly has the physicality to match his demanding role. But he’s more than that as his goal against Chelsea earlier this season showed.
Remember Rafa once said he was good enough to earn an England call-up. I don’t think there was many even within the Toon ranks that thought that. But here’s a comparison. Declan Rice is in the England squad, but would you have him in front of Hayden? It is perhaps not as far fetched as we might think particularly if he keeps playing like he did on Sunday.
I suspect right now Arsenal would take him back in a heartbeat with the way their midfield is currently performing. Therein lies a conundrum.
Hayden has shown impressive professionalism at Newcastle. He’s a Southern boy and was clearly unsettled for a long time with his partner and young baby down south and made it quite clear that he wanted a move back down south. He was told he could leave but it never happened for him. I’ll bet there’s a few clubs now that might regret coming in for him and I daresay he could still be persuaded to leave if the right offer came along. Not that we’d want to move him on the form he’s currently showing.
The way he knuckled down, didn’t sulk, never threw the towel in, and just got on with things was testament to a great attitude. He seems a very well-liked and respected part of the squad who speaks well and intelligently on footballing matters.
For me he’s our unsung hero at times and perhaps one of our most consistent performers that just always seems to be able to step-up and do what is necessary when it’s necessary. As I say definitely unsung at time but they type of player you need in an effective side.
If he keeps playing like he did on Sunday I think he’ll go from unsung to terrace hero. That is of course when the terraces can be packed again!