Isaac Hayden: Why ‘hands-on’ Rafa Benitez has given me footballoing education already

Isaac Hayden scoring against Doncaster
Isaac Hayden scoring against Doncaster

Isaac Hayden says the first fortnight of his Newcastle United career has already been an education – thanks to Rafa Benitez.

Hayden joined the club earlier this month from Arsenal, where he was coached by Arsene Wenger.

And the 21-year-old – who spent last season on loan at Hull City – is enjoying working under “hands-on” Benitez day in, day out on the training field.

“It’s brilliant – he’s very hands-on and he loves to coach a lot,” said Hayden. “I’ve already learned a hell of a lot in the two weeks I’ve been here.

“For me it’s just about learning even more and trying to help the team as much as I can.”

United, unbeaten up to now in pre-season, take on Vitesse Arnhem in their final friendly at St James’s Park tomorrow.

“Everyone’s looking towards the first game of the season, and the Vitesse game at St James’s is another test – another foreign opponent, another challenge,” said Hayden.

“But we’re unbeaten in pre-season so far, we’ve had a few good wins and some solid performances and we’ve kept another clean sheet.

“For me it’s about progressing as a team and moving forward, which I hope we will do.

“It was a good 2-0 win (against Southend), but they were a little bit difficult to break down at the start and they defended quite well.

“Maybe we could have moved the ball a little quicker, and taken a few lesser touches, but overall it’s another win, it’s another pre-season game under our belt and we’re progressing towards the start of the season nicely now.”

Versatile Hayden can play across the defence and midfield, but his preference is the holding role in the middle of the park.

“That’s where I see myself playing, but as I’ve said before, I’m a versatile player,” said Hayden, who knows club-mate Rolando Aarons from the England youth set-up.

“I can play full-back, I can play centre-back and I can play centre-mid.

“So, for me, whatever role the manager sees me in is the role I will do. If I have to do a job at centre-back, or if I have to play right-back, I’ll play anywhere.

“I want to help the club and I want to progress myself and my career. But the main thing for me is that this club needs to be in the Premier League next season so if I can help the team in anyway I will.

“It’s still early days for me, and I’m still getting used to my team-mates.

“I’ve only really played with Rolando before at England level, so I’m still getting used to my team-mates, but it’s been good so far and I’m enjoying it.

“I’m learning every training session, the manager’s been fantastic for me personally and obviously for the team.

“I’m just trying to learn as much as I can, integrate further with the team and work towards getting wins which we need.”

Hayden feels there is one key difference between United and the Hull side that won promotion through the play-offs last season.

“The main difference between this team and Hull City last year is that we at Newcastle pass the ball a lot better than we did at Hull,” he said.

“I think if we get the ball down and if we want to play football – one or two touches – and maybe on a few occasions against Southend we played too many touches, yet overall we played it around nicely and got a few passes and moved on from there.

“If we play like we have been during pre-season and take it on a notch in terms of moving it a bit quicker in some certain areas, then I don’t think we’ll have any problems as there are some quality players here.”