It’s been a long few weeks for Isaac Hayden.
Hayden, Newcastle United’s fifth summer signing, has been sold on moving to St James’s Park since the middle of last month.
The 21-year-old, then at Arsenal, sat down with Rafa Benitez for two hours.
They talked and talked. About everything.
And Hayden knew he wanted to join Newcastle after sitting down with Benitez, who explained the areas where he felt he could improve.
Since then, the versatile player has been waiting for his dream to become a reality.
It was good to know he’s obviously been watching my games. As soon as that meeting was done, I knew that this was the only place for me to come and (he is) the only manager I want to play under and learn from.Isaac Hayden
“I met him (Benitez) in London in the middle of June and we had a good, two-hour long conversation,” said Hayden, whose preferred position is central midfield.
“He explained a few things to me, what to improve and what I’m good at.
“It was good to know he’s obviously been watching my games and things like that.
“For me, as soon as that meeting was done, I knew that this was the only place for me to come and (he is) the only manager I want to play under and learn from.
“It was brilliant. He was talking to me about tactical things – things that he’d learnt in the past – everything.
“So for me to have that initially was massive, and as soon as I left that meeting I knew that this was the right place for me to come.
“To meet him like that was fantastic and to work under him now is going to be even better and I think that the main thing I got from that meeting is I’m 100% going to be a better player.
“I’m going to learn a lot from him while he’s my manager, so it was a no-brainer to come here.”
Hayden – who followed Dwight Gayle, Matt Ritchie, Jesus Gamez and Matz Sels through the doors at St James’s Park – is also looking forward to playing for United’s fans.
“All of the stories I’ve heard about the fans have been fantastic,” he said.
“They come out in their thousands which is what you want to see, and to get the opportunity to play in front of them and show them what I’m capable of and play with the passion that I know they like, I think we’ll get on great.”
Benitez feels Hayden’s versatility – he can also play across the back four – will prove invaluable in the Championship.
The Chelmsford-born player – who spent time at Southend United before joining Arsenal’s Academy in 2008 – spent last season in the division with loan club Hull City.
Hayden’s arrival is likely to hasten the departure of long-serving Cheick Tiote, possibly to a Chinese club, this summer. Benitez, we know, has been impatient to rebuild his squad since committing himself to the relegated club in the wake of relegation.
A sixth player could arrive this week, though Blackburn Rovers manager Owen Coyle is keen to keep defensive target Grant Hanley at Ewood Park.
Asked about transfer business last month, Benitez said: “To be fair, for me as a manager, it is too late, but the reality of it is too early. Why?
“Because would like to have the squad ready and say this is the team and start working with them from the first of July.
“We have three or four things ready, it is just that we have to start with the first one and we have two or three (transfers) that I think we can do in one week.”
Benitez said he was in a hurry at United.
And he wasn’t joking.