How a tackle from Mathieu Flamini eventually led to Isaac Hayden’s move from Arsenal to Newcastle

Isaac Hayden makes his presence felt in Newcastle's defeat at Nottingham Forest this season. Picture by Frank Reid
Isaac Hayden makes his presence felt in Newcastle's defeat at Nottingham Forest this season. Picture by Frank Reid

Isaac Hayden is looking to return to the Emirates Stadium – with Newcastle United.

Hayden joined from Arsenal last summer.

I’m not going to lie, I’ve thought about going back to play against Arsenal at the Emirates a few times.

Isaac Hayden

And the 21-year-old has already thought about what it would be like to run out at the stadium in a United shirt in a Premier League or cup fixture.

Hayden has impressed for promotion-chasing Newcastle, who take on Rotherham United at St James’s Park this afternoon.

“I’m not going to lie,” said the midfielder.

“I’ve thought about going back to play against Arsenal at the Emirates a few times.

“Whether it be the FA Cup, the (EFL) Cup or hopefully eventually in the league, to go back to the Emirates would be a great occasion.

“It would be good to see some of the people there, because a lot of people there have helped me.

“I was there for eight years, and it was a big part of my life and my career.

“I was an Arsenal fan growing up, so it would be a good moment.

“It would be even more special to do it with Newcastle, because I’m really enjoying my time here and I think the club is really helping me develop as a player.”

Hayden – who played two League Cup fixtures for Arsenal – knew his time was up at the Emirates Stadium when he joined Hull City on loan last season.

“It was a quick process to decide to leave,” said Hayden, a boyhood Arsenal fan.

“There was a time when I could have broken into the first team. There was all sorts of injuries, and (Francis) Coquelin was at Charlton on loan.

“Just at that moment, when there was a gap, I got injured and was out for eight months. When i came back, Coquelin had broken in and was doing really well.

“I knew then, when I went to Hull, I was done – I wouldn’t play for Arsenal.

“After that, it was about getting the right club.”

Hayden feels the injury was a “massive moment” in his career.

“I did my right ankle – the ligaments and a micro-fracture,” said the England Under-21 international.

“I was going to start in the Premier League against Hull at the Emirates. I was named in the team on the Friday, but then got injured in training that day. From there, I didn’t play again.

“It was an unfortunate tackle with (Mathieu) Flamini. It was an awkward challenge, nothing malicious. Just a clash. My ankle turned and I felt a click.

“I tried to carry on and make it to the team hotel. I rang the doctor and said ‘ can’t even walk up the stairs here, I’m done’.

“It was hard to take. It was my big chance. I was trying everything, taking painkillers. But it was literally hanging off!

“Then you’re thinking ‘I could play and have an absolute stinker and that could kill me as well’. It was a massive moment in my career, and took a little while to get over.”

On leaving the club, Hayden added: “Arsene didn’t say he didn’t want me, and it wasn’t like he didn’t think I was good enough, it was more looking at the squad.

“They brought in (Granit) Xhaka for £24million, and they’re not going to play a 21-year-old in front of him.

“I didn’t want to go on loan again, I wanted to find a home. Arsene wanted to give me that opportunity, and he was fantastic with me.”

Benitez spoke to Arsene Wenger before signing Hayden.

“I met him, and I liked the player, and was talking with Arsene Wenger,” said Hayden.

“We were in contact with Arsenal. Everything was very positive.

“He’s a young player, English, an international – a lot of positives.

“Everything we were expecting we have had that.

“We expected a player who is mature for his age, with great potential and focus. He can still improve a lot.”