Isaac Hayden has revealed that Arsene Wenger tried to keep him at Arsenal – but the pull of Newcastle United was too strong.
The midfielder, set to face Bristol City at Ashton Gate this afternoon, joined Newcastle this summer.
As a kid, my favourite films was Goal! I loved it. I was a mad-keen football fan, I watched it all the time and of course, St James’s Park featured heavily in it.Isaac Hayden
And Hayden – who scored his first goal for the club in Wednesday night’s 4-1 home win over Reading – has impressed in United’s first three Championship games.
Chelmsford-born Hayden, however, has long dreamt about playing for the club, having got “goosebumps” watching the 2005 film Goal!
The movie charts the fictional story of Santiago Munez, who was given a chance at United after being spotted playing in the USA.
Hayden said: “As a kid, my favourite films was Goal!.
“I loved it. I was a mad- keen football fan, I watched it all the time and of course, St James’s Park featured heavily in it.
“I remember thinking ‘wow, that must be a great to play and to score goals’.
“Growing up in the south, I had no links with Newcastle, but my impression was that it must be a really big club because they’re making a film about it.
“I used to get goosebumps watching that film with a big crowd and amazing atmosphere inside the ground.
“Everything about it really, the fans were so passionate, the stadium looked incredible, even the black and white stripes.
“I suppose I’ve always felt a connection with the club ever since.
“I don’t know the last time I watched the film, but those memories stuck.
“What I really love about football is the passion and the connection between a team and its fans, and that’s what we’ve got here
“So to be able to call it my home ground is a dream come true – quite literally.”
Versatile Hayden – who can also play in defence – scored United’s opening goal against Reading.
Hayden beat goalkeeper Ali Al-Habsi with a low shot after Reading failed to clear a Matt Ritchie free-kick.
And the result eased the nerves on Tyneside after opening defeats to Huddersfield Town and Fulham.
Asked about following in the footsteps of Goal! lead character Munez, Hayden said: “Absolutely brilliant.
“Now I can say I’ve scored a goal at the same end as Santiago!
“And the roar was just as loud as it was in the film.
“His goal was probably a bit more spectacular than mine.
“It’s lovely to score my first goal, but, for me, it was all about the three points.
“It was very important, not just for the manager and the players, but the fans too.
“I thought it was a decent performance, and now it’s about building on that.
“Losing against Huddersfield was a huge let-down, because I was so looking forward to my home debut. It certainly didn’t turn out the way I hoped.
“But this game is all about reactions, and I thought we reacted very well.
“I haven’t told the rest of the lads my favourite film is Goal – I’ll probably get a lot of stick when they find out.”
Hayden – who spent last season on loan at Hull City, who won promotion through the play-offs – says Arsenal manager Wenger wanted to keep him at the club. But he felt it was the “right time” to leave the Emirates Stadium.
“Arsene Wenger wanted to keep me, but I knew the time was right to move on and I knew this was the club for me,” said the England Under-20 international.
“It ticked all the right boxes, the fans, the manager, the infrastructure, the players already here and, of course, the film.
“Everything drew me towards this football club, and I am really excited about the future.
“This season is about me progressing as an individual and the team moving up the table and winning promotion at the end of the season.”