Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden recounts a ‘humbling’ experience – and an unusual phone call from Rafa Benitez

Newcastle Uniteds Isaac Hayden makes up food packs during a visit to Newcastle West End Foodbank. (Pic: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)
Newcastle Uniteds Isaac Hayden makes up food packs during a visit to Newcastle West End Foodbank. (Pic: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United)
  • Work of West End Foodbank made possible by donations from fans
  • Tonnes of food donated by supporters on matchdays
  • Hayden spent time volunteering at foodbank ahead of Stoke game
  • Midfielder urging fans to keep on supporting its work

Isaac Hayden gets stuck in on the field.

And the midfielder was happy to tackle a different challenge ahead of Newcastle United’s home game against Stoke City.

Hayden visited the Newcastle West End Foodbank, which supports hundreds of families in the city, yesterday afternoon.

And that support wouldn’t be possible without the generous matchday donations from fans at St James’s Park.

Hayden happily gave his time at the Church of the Venerable Bede, Arthur’s Hill, where volunteers distribute the food to people in crisis.

“It is eye-opening,” said Hayden. “You see the different spectrums that people live under. Obviously, only a mile down the road is St James’s Park, and four miles up there is Ponteland, and it’s a completely different story.

Isaac Hayden

Isaac Hayden

“To be involved in this and to see this is eye-opening, and it certainly humbles you.

“I think it’s important to get involved in community work and find out a bit more about these things.

“The amount that’s been given is amazing. Long may it continue. If we can improve it even more, then brilliant.

“Things like this are important, and the club and the players can really help out.”

To be involved in this and to see this is eye-opening, and it certainly humbles you. I think it’s important to get involved in community work and find out a bit more about these things.

Isaac Hayden

Supporters donated tonne after tonne of food last season.

“The fans up here are second to none,” said Hayden.

“They’re not only good supporters, but they help each other out.

“It’s just a good community. They’re just good people up here, really friendly, really happy generally, and people are walking through here with a smile on their face.

“You might sit there and think ‘how can you have a smile?’. It just makes you think when you’ve had a bad game or bad day or whatever, you have to think that these people are still smiling in the situations that they’re in.

“You can’t go to a place like this and walk out and not think about it. It’s just something that touches your heart. To see and speak to people gives you a lasting impression.”

Essex-born Hayden, signed from Arsenal last year, feels he’s growing up “as a person and a player” on Tyneside.

“It’s a long way from home,” said the England Under-21 international. “It’s a big change for myself. But it’s something that I’ve relished and got on with and I’ve definitely grown as a person and as a player.

“The more I can help out (at the foodbank) the better it is. The more exposure this place gets, the more people will hopefully get involved.

“What we want as players is to get involved in good things that can help the community, and not things that could give players a bad name.”

Hayden and his team-mates hope to continue their good work on the pitch against Stoke tomorrow.

They beat Swansea City 1-0 last weekend without manager Rafa Benitez, who was recovering from an operation.

However, Benitez, recuperating at his family home on Merseyside, still got his point across before the game in a series of phone calls.

“The manager called a lot of the individuals – maybe the whole team, I’m not sure – but he called us individually before the game to have a private one-on-one chat about the game,” said Hayden.

“He wanted to engage with us all and just explain to us what he wants from each player individually.

“It just shows that he trusts a lot of the players. He puts a lot of faith in them, and he knows even if he’s not there physically, he can have a five-minute chat with you and that what you go on the pitch he knows you’ll be doing exactly what he wants you to be doing.

“Again, I thought it was a really professional job all week. Even without the manager last week, the training was very, very professional – everyone was very focused, whether you thought you were going to play or whether you thought you weren’t.”

Benitez returned to Tyneside early this week.

Hayden said: “The manager’s been back on the training pitch doing his normal work.

“We just want to build on what we’ve done over the last couple of games. The Premier League’s a long season – it’s very intense – and the games are of a very high quality.

“We have to just make sure that we’re bang on and 100% ready for the task at hand.

“The manager always prepares us right, and I’m sure by Saturday we will be.”

Meanwhile, fans can donate to the Newcastle West End Foodbank stall behind the Gallowgate end before the game.

“The more money we can get, the better it is,” said Hayden.