Hayden: Football is important, but safety is the priority
Written by Dan King
Isaac Hayden believes that the safety of supporters, players and staff is the priority as the Premier League prepares to convene an emergency club meeting on Friday morning regarding future fixtures.
Newcastle United are due to take on Sheffield United at St. James' Park on Saturday (kick-off 3pm GMT) but, although Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised on Thursday afternoon that all sporting events should take place as normal for the time being amid the coronavirus outbreak, news of Arsenal head coach Mikel Arteta and Chelsea winger Callum Hudson-Odoi testing positive for Covid-19 later that evening has led to further calls for the league to be suspended.
No Newcastle players or backroom staff have shown symptoms of the illness and the team have prepared as normal this week, despite the uncertainty, and Hayden - speaking before Thursday night's developments - said: "It's difficult but I think the most important thing is to just listen to what the authorities say.
"The club and the doctor here have been on it a lot and it's just about keeping safe. At the end of the day, football is important to a lot of people and people love it, but it's not more important than people's lives.
"People's lives are at stake, whether it's the players, the staff, the fans. It's just about making sure everyone's safe and following the right protocol, and then hopefully when we get past it, it will all be good."
Following last weekend's 1-0 win at Southampton, Newcastle are in 13th place with 35 points from 29 games.
"The aim was always to get to 40 points as quickly as possible," said Hayden, who has played 24 times in the top flight this season, scoring the winner against Chelsea in January.
"Whatever happens after that is a bonus. We'd be looking to push forward and get better but the primary focus is safety and getting to 40 points and after that we can build on that and hopefully finish as high as we can."
"At the end of the day, football is important to a lot of people and people love it, but it's not more important than people's lives."