Hayden hoping to rise to the challenge
Written by Tom Easterby
With just a week to go until the start of pre-season, Isaac Hayden says he’s “raring to go” – and has set his sights on becoming an established Premier League player at Newcastle United.
Hayden enjoyed a fine first season at St. James’ Park after joining from Arsenal last July, making his presence felt as his calm yet combative displays in the middle of the park helped Rafa Benitez’s side lift the Sky Bet Championship title.
Though the 22-year-old now has two promotions from the second tier to his name – with Hull City, as a loanee, and the Magpies – he is yet to make his Premier League debut, despite having made a couple of EFL Cup outings during his time with the Gunners.
And while it’s a box Hayden is keen to tick this coming campaign, the England Under-21 international hopes to push on even further and make himself a top-flight regular in Benitez’s side this term.
“When I was at Arsenal I think I was on the bench in the Premier League a fair few times but I never really got on – I always knew I was only there because of injuries or something, so it wasn’t really the same feeling,” he told nufc.co.uk.
“It will be good this time to get a proper opportunity, and hopefully give myself the best chance to be an established Premier League player. But I’m just looking forward to it – I’m taking it day by day, enjoying the experience and just trying to learn as much as I can, improve in training and then we’ll see what happens this season.
“It’s a fresh slate for everybody. Nobody is going to be talking about what happened last season going into this one – it’s a fresh slate for everybody, everyone gets a fresh opportunity to show what they can do.
“It’s just up to you, in pre-season, to show that you’re willing to put the work in and perform when you get the opportunity to play, to show the manager and the staff that you want to be an integral part of the team going forward in the Premier League.”
Hayden played 38 times for the Magpies in all competitions last season, scoring twice, as he held off stiff competition to become a regular pick in the engine room.
This season, he recognises there’ll be similar hurdles to clear if he’s to make sure of his place in Benitez’s starting 11 – but he retains belief that he can continue his progress in the top division.
“I’ve always been in a situation where there’s pressure on playing for the club and pressure on winning and things like that, and the same for competition for places – I’m more than used to that,” said Hayden. “When you play for Arsenal and you’re a 19-year-old kid, you’ve got to be better than Sanchez, or Cazorla, or Wilshere or Ramsay, so I’m more than used to that.
“For me, it’s not about anybody else – it’s about myself, and as long as I do my best for the team in whatever capacity that is, improve and learn, then that’s all that I can ask for.
“I was confident when I first joined here. There was competition when I first came here, but I was confident that I was going to play and I’m no different now. I’ve got confidence in my own ability. I wouldn’t say I’m arrogant, but I know what I can bring to the table and I know what I can do. I think that given the opportunity, I should be fine in the Premier League.
“I’m going to be a bit patient – everything is going to be new, and there’s going to be competition for places but I’m more than happy to compete, work hard, do the right things and earn my place, which is what I’ve done ever since I’ve been here.”
United have confirmed five pre-season fixtures so far, with friendlies against Heart of Midlothian, Preston North End, Bradford City, Mainz and Wolfsburg to come once the first team squad return to the Magpies’ Benton training base on Monday, 3rd July.
Benitez’s side will kick-off their Premier League campaign at St. James’ Park against Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, 12th August, and Hayden says he’s “ready” for the task ahead as the new campaign draws closer.
“I was looking at the fixtures the day they came out, and Spurs at home is a massive fixture to start off with. I’m sure everybody wants to get back in and will be looking forward to that one,” he said.
“But it’s the whole Premier League experience – it’s not just the one game, you’ve got 38 games against a lot of good teams, so it’s exciting times.
“It’s about everyone pulling in the right direction – the players that are already here, the players that will come – and everyone working together to make sure that the club goes in the right direction.
“It’s been a long break so far, and it’s probably been needed for a lot of the players, including myself. I feel really good now, and I feel ready and raring to go for the season ahead.
“I’m looking forward to pre-season. All the lads get back next Monday, and I just came back in a few days early just to get a few treatments and make sure I’m 100 per cent ready. I feel really good, I’ve been doing my exercises, my gym work and my running, so I feel ready and raring to go.”
“It’s a fresh slate for everybody. Nobody is going to be talking about what happened last season going into this one – it’s a fresh slate for everybody, everyone gets a fresh opportunity to show what they can do."