When Isaac Hayden rocked up in town back in the Summer, few knew much about him. Those who claimed otherwise, bluntly, lied.
Well that may be harsh but at the very least they were economical with the truth.
Having managed someone in a virtual reality world does not qualify one to pass “real life” judgment.
Bar a relatively meagre 18 appearances under Steve Bruce’s tutelage at the KC last season, the 21 year old had no first team experience.
Sure he’d been on Arsenal’s books but that counts for little in reality.
For every Jack Wilshere there are scores of Gavin Hoytes, Kerrea Gilberts and Thomas Cruises (yes, I googled that one as well!)
But this lad was different. Or so we all hoped.
Arsene Wenger came out and explained that Hayden was sold so as not to halt his personal development.
Refreshing in an era where hoarding hot prospects, stunting their growth and then releasing damaged, albeit extremely wealthy, goods seems to have become the norm.
And there is no shame in not making the grade at the Emirates.
Wenger is not one to damn with faint praise. “Intelligent” and “very good physically” were the Frenchman’s exact words.
Qualities that our engine room has been woefully lacking in recent years.
Word on the street was Agent Bruce wanted to tie the midfielder down to a permanent gig.
It didn’t happen. Perhaps because of the bottomless pit that Hull’s owners had dug. Never has a team promoted to the promised land been in such bad shape.
Whatever the reasons it matters little. Rafa swooped. Once the pair had talked it was a no brainer. Hayden was destined for one place and once place only.
The Benitez spell is far from limited to those in the stands it would seem.
Isaac Hayden last month:
“I have already learned so much. I couldn’t have imagine learning this much so soon. It’s almost startling. Some things he says, you sit there and thinking and say ‘oh, OK’, and it hits you afterwards what he’s said. It’s incredible.”
As if we weren’t already smitten enough with our Spanish supremo already.
After a promising debut at Fulham, Hayden has gone from strength to strength.
Mobile and dynamic, the lad from Chelmsford adds steel and pace to the centre of the park. He’s even got himself on the score sheet.
If he could turn that into a regular thing it would certainly help his case.
Some may point out that he doesn’t start every week. But why would he?
Isaac Hayden is young, inexperienced and still finding his feet in the men’s game. Competitive football is a different beast to anything you come across at youth or reserve level.
It takes the body time to adjust. Why burn someone out with a gruelling first season.
Particularly when you have the luxury of a squad.
Instead surely its better to have him fresh and in a place to put perform at the top of his game.
That’s Rafa for you. He knows. Why risk anything when we’ve got adequate cover.
And it would seem the midfielder’s performances have not gone under the radar. A string of U21 call-ups have deservedly been forthcoming, with a debut against Bosnia-Herzegovina last month.
In time full honours could be on the cards. It has to be a future aspiration. One thing at a time though.
For now it’s about honing his game in a tough league. A world class manager helps.
It would be little surprise if Rafa turns his attention to next season should we keep our current momentum.
At that point it seems likely the starlet will get the opportunity to cement his place in the centre of the park.
And that can only bode well for the future. After all he’s unlikely to be in a hurry to force a move away.
There is so much right at NUFC at the moment, this lad included. This lad could be a star.