Miles Starforth's China tour diary: Why Isaac Hayden got the short straw in Nanjing
Someone had to get the short straw – and it was Isaac Hayden.
One player had to play 90 minutes in the energy-sapping heat and humidity of a summer evening in Nanjing last night.
Ben Dawson and Neil Redfearn were limited to 10 changes to the team in the club’s Premier League Asia Trophy fixture against Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Olympic Sports Centre.
They had debated leaving a goalkeeper on for 90 minutes, but, in the end, Hayden put his hand up.
“I said I want to get as many minutes as I can during pre-season – that’s the aim,” said the midfielder. “Obviously, they knew someone was going to have to play 90 minutes. We had a few injuries, a few knocks. I said ‘I feel good’. I’ve worked hard over the summer.”
It was a tough night for Hayden and his team-mates, beaten 4-0 by a Wolves team which was ahead of them in their pre-season preparations. And that’s without factoring in the upheaval and uncertainty at St James’s Park this summer following the departure of Rafa Benitez.
Hayden said: “We’re not going to make excuses, as it wasn’t good enough overall, but most pre-seasons we’ve started with lads playing 45 minutes, the whole team changing and opposition, no disrespect to them, on a whole different level.”
You can’t read too much into the result for those reasons, but the club only has three more friendlies left before the season-opener against Arsenal on August 11.
And United’s players know they will need to give a better account of themselves against West Ham United in Shanghai on Saturday.
Like a bullet
Newcastle United’s players don’t often travel by train, but there isn’t a faster way to get between Nanjing and Shanghai.
The squad was bussed to Nanjing’s sprawling, and spotlessly clean, railway station immediately after last night’s 4-0 defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers at the Olympic Sports Centre. They caught a sleek bullet train, which covers the 187-mile journey in a little over an hour.
The trains are fast, frequent – and, importantly, on time.
Imagine travelling between Newcastle and London in an hour and a half, and you’ll get an idea of the speed of these trains.