Isaac Hayden says the best is yet to come from Newcastle United in the Championship.
Rafa Benitez’s side returned to the top of the league at the weekend with a 4-0 win over Birmingham City.
Dwight Gayle scored a hat-trick in the game, which followed three successive defeats.
Hayden and his team-mates are preparing for tomorrow night’s game against Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
And the midfielder, outstanding against Birmingham, feels the team can only get better as the players signed by Benitez in the summer adjust to life in the division and at Newcastle.
Asked if the squad was still learning under Benitez, Hayden said: “That’s the main thing.
“We’re a fairly new group, there are a lot of new players have come into it, and some of them haven’t played in the Championship before. Everyone’s still learning and everyone’s still improving week by week. It was another good performance we’re happy with.”
The victory followed a controversial nine-man defeat to Nottingham Forest at the City Ground and an EFL Cup exit at the hands of Hull City, Hayden’s former loan club.
“The main thing against Birmingham was just getting the three points,” said Hayden, signed from Arsenal in the summer.
“I think the performances against Hull and Notts Forest especially with nine men deserved a lot more, but it wasn’t to be.
“Saturday was just about getting the three points and putting a good performance in in front of our home fans.”
United took control early in the game and kept going for 90 minutes.
“I think it was important that we kept going,” said Hayden. “When we got to 2-0 there was a period where they had a bit of the ball just before half time, and we said at half-time the third goal was crucial.
“If they had got one it could almost have been like Cardiff was before the last international break and we didn’t want that.
“It was important that pretty much straight away we got the third goal and that settled us down again. We could play our stuff for the rest of the game.”
Asked if the Forest defeat “hurt” the team, Hayden added: “Not really.
“At the time it was painful but we had over a week to get over the Forest game, and we’d been training really hard, the group did really well and everyone had been taking on board what the manager wanted and it worked.”
The Wigan game is followed by Saturday’s visit to Burton Albion.
“That’s how it is in the Championship,” said 21-year-old Hayden, who helped Hull win promotion last season.
“We were lucky there was no midweek game before Birmingham – that would have been tough on the lads physically.
“But everyone’s recovered really well, and we’re ready and raring to go against Wigan and Burton.”