There is one player at St James Park, who I don’t think realises just how good he is/can be.
Only Jamaal Lascelles and Paul Dummett have featured in more Championship matches this season.
This being despite him only having started nine league games in his entire career previously.
In case you were wondering, it is Isaac Hayden.
The midfielder has been excellent in my opinion and the best thing is, there is much much more to come.
When things have taken a bit of a downturn with results and team performances, I have been surprised to hear a minority of Newcastle supporters pointing at Isaac Hayden as a player proving to be one of the weak links at times.
Having only started nine league games (last season at Hull in the Championship) before arriving on Tyneside, I have my doubts as to whether Rafa Benitez anticipated using Hayden quite so often.
However, the 21 year old has featured in 23 of Newcastle 25 Championship games, with only Lascelles and Dummett having appeared in one more than that.
Maybe it is a case of being over-exposed and younger players do have a habit of blowing hot and cold – though having said that, I do think that Isaac Hayden has been consistently very good this season and surely exceeded Rafa’s hopes of what he could have expected from the former Arsenal youngster in the short-term.
I’m guessing that if Jack Colback hadn’t played so poorly, Isaac Hayden may have been in and out the team a lot more. As it is though he has been in a lot more than he has been out and formed an excellent partnership with Jonjo Shelvey.
Once Shelvey’s suspension kicked in though, I think Hayden is the one who has most suffered, as more senior players, particularly Colback, have failed to step up to the responsibility and maybe the former Gunner has been trying a little bit too hard to compensate for the playmaker’s absence.
His progress is especially impressive considering he played mostly as a central defender when at the Emirates. He has an excellent engine and gets about the midfield, compensating well for the less mobile Shelvey.
Obviously he is still on a steep learning curve but I think two factors could increasingly improve his game.
Firstly, to stop trying to replicate Shelvey’s Hollywood 60 yard passes. Nobody else is going to get the same success rate as Shelvey with these long passes and other teams are increasingly defending deeply, meaning this type of pass will rarely open up the opposition.
Secondly, and in contrast, I would love to see Isaac Hayden getting further up the pitch and carrying the ball. Considering he is over six feet tall, the midfielder has excellent dribbling skills and when he runs at the option he has had significant success in creating chances and/or drawing the foul – giving free-kicks in dangerous areas.
In my opinion one of Rafa Benitez’ stand out summer signings and a player who is going to get better and better.
Can’t wait for Jonjo Shelvey to be back in tandem with Isaac Hayden after Saturday’s match, then Newcastle can really start to tear this division up once again.