The focus has been on nothing but new signings in recent weeks, with moves for Callum Wilson and Ryan Fraser starting the week off in style at St James’ Park.
That said, it has been well publicised that there are contractual issues to resolve with 14 contracts expiring in the summer of 2021.
There are some that the club will be itching to get off the books, such as Henri Saivet, Achraf Lazaar and Rolando Aarons. The jury remains out for some, like Dwight Gayle, Jacob Murphy, Christian Atsu, Dan Barlaser and DeAndre Yedlin.
The most worrying name on that list of 14 is Isaac Hayden, however – a key player we should be pushing to tie down now we’ve made progress in the transfer market.
The former Arsenal man has previously wanted a move closer to London, but that had died down in recent years and he has emerged as one of our most important players. Last summer, he spoke to The Athletic on his future:
“I’m happy to have conversations about a new contract, as I’ve said to the manager and the club, but I have to be valued in the right way. I want to commit because it’s the right thing to do, because the club is going in the right direction and because the club value me in a certain way.“
Time has passed since the above comments and it has been rumoured that he has been close to an agreement. However, one hasn’t been forthcoming, making many fear that old issues may have resurfaced and that Premier League clubs may be eyeing a potential bargain to bring him back down South on a free next summer.
The club have shown themselves to be poor when it comes to squad management. Matty Longstaff signing a new contract was packaged as a positive a few weeks ago, but it went on way too long and the club can’t afford a repeat of that saga. If they allow Hayden to get into the same situation, a similar resolution wouldn’t be likely, as there will be interest in his services.
Since his return to the team under Rafa Benitez, Hayden has proven his class at Premier League level. Last season, he averaged 4 tackles and interceptions per ninety minutes. He is also key in doing a lot of Jonjo Shelvey’s running, as shown by his 19.3 pressures per ninety minutes at a success rate of 26.5%.
Due to the team often being out of possession, it is key to have a player that can work hard and win the ball back. That is Hayden’s role and nobody else in the squad can perform that. Over the last 12 months, he has emerged as one of the leaders in the side and he could even be considered a future club captain.
It would be a huge shame to lose Isaac Hayden in the next year and it would serve as a reminder of the poor running of the club should we not only see him leave but leave on a free or significantly cut-price fee.
They got lucky with Matty Longstaff. A similarly poorly led contract negotiations and we will lose a key player. The club need to get this sorted before 2021.
The coming weeks should have a big impact on the thinking of Hayden. He may well be buoyed to see us sign three or four quality players and believe there is a better future on Tyneside. However, there’s also that fear his long-term future lies away from the North-East, with his partner and daughter who continue to live down South.
It is reaching a pivotal point in Hayden’s contract talks and, in the midst of a few exciting signings, it is one thing that the club absolutely need to get right.