Can Newcastle handle the Championship promotion heat? Isaac Hayden opens up about pressure at the top...

Isaac Hayden
Isaac Hayden

Newcastle United are determined to prove they can handle the promotion heat at the business end of the Championship season, according to midfielder Isaac Hayden.

The former Arsenal man is set to return to the first-team fold this weekend against Wigan Athletic, having recovered fully from an ankle operation which has seen him sidelined since the start of February.

And with United a point clear at the top of the division, Hayden says it is up to the Magpies to show they can shoulder the pressure of a fight at the second tier summit.

"We've got a big month of fixtures now and it's up to us to perform and win the league," he said.

"As players we've got to be able to handle the pressure, take the pressure on and succeed.

"We've played 38 games so far but that doesn’t matter now; if we don’t achieve our goal then those games would have been pointless, so these last eight games are really important.

"We’re in a good position and the way I look at it is, we've got eight games to win the title."

A promotion race is something not totally alien to Hayden.

Last season the central midfielder was part of the Hull City side, alongside Mo Diame, who went up via the play-offs.

It is very different this time around, though. Hayden explains: "Last year was a little bit different.

"At this stage, they were out of the running to be promoted in the top two, really.

"It was more about just securing the play-offs, but this time we've got ourselves into this situation.

"Eight games left and it's up to us."

Hayden, who recently celebrated his 22nd birthday, would almost certainly have been involved with the England youth setup this week, had he not been still recovering from the injury, suffered in the home win over Derby County.

While he admits he is disappointed not to have travelled, he knows it was more important to look at the bigger picture, especially with so much at stake at St James's Park.

Of the international break, he said: "It definitely came at a good time.

"It's given me that two weeks worth of training to get it under my belt and I think if there were games during this period it might have been a little bit more difficult for me.

"Obviously it was disappointing to miss out on England Under-21s but at the end of day, I've got to look at the bigger picture and making sure that I'm 100 per cent fit for Newcastle and performing for them."

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