Newcastle’s Hayden on family struggles that nearly derailed season

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For more than a year, Isaac Hayden has been making regular trips down the English motorways between his current home Newcastle and his childhood home, London. The trips aren’t for him to see old friends or to have some fun in the big city. It’s to take care of his daughter.

In Newcastle’s match-day program, Hayden revealed how his daughter was born six weeks premature and has had a myriad of medical issues to deal with, a nightmare for any parent. In addition, Hayden’s fiance also has some medical issues of her own, putting more of the parenting work on Hayden. Had Hayden’s family been able to be in Newcastle, it may have been more manageable, but with Hayden’s daughter seeing doctors in London, it’s meant numerous five-hour drives and train rides down the length of England every week.

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“I did three trips to or from London in one day – I flew, got the train and drove,” Hayden said thinking back to a game against his former club Arsenal in December 2017. “I got back in at about 11 o’clock. The next day, I trained, got the flight back down and played 90 minutes against Arsenal. I was ******. Absolutely ******.”

Hayden added: “It’s not like normal work where you can go in and say, ‘I’m feeling down’ or ‘this has happened or that has happened so I can’t go into work’, or take a certain amount of leave – it doesn’t work like that in football,” he says. “You can say, ‘I’m not going to come in’, but at the weekend, someone else is going to play and take your position. They could do well, and then you’re out of the team. You always have that element of ‘you have to keep going’, even if you were knackered, like I was, or mentally drained.”

In the wide-ranging interview, with Hayden touching on the criticism soccer players endure without thinking of the human wearing the jersey, Hayden’s revelation makes it even more impressive for his form this season. The 24-year-old central midfielder has finally received a run of games in the Premier League, and his steel and strong aerial ability has been on full display this season.

Hayden has started 16 straight games for the Magpies since coming into the lineup in December, and is an integral part of the squad that could make a late run to avoid relegation from the Premier League, with a boost from Miguel Almiron.

Since being inserted into the starting lineup, Newcastle has picked up 21 points, including a win over Manchester City. Newcastle is currently seven-points clear of the drop zone, and are just five points away from the 40-point mark of safety.

However, no matter where Newcastle is playing next season, it looks unlikely that Hayden will still be there. He handed in a transfer request that was rejected last summer and he made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue commuting between Newcastle and London for his daughter’s doctor appointments.

“She’s a one-year-old who’s used to doing five-hour journeys,” Hayden said. “Most one-year-olds would be kicking and screaming after an hour, not happy at all. But she’s used to doing it. I’m sitting here looking at her thinking, ‘this isn’t fair on you anymore’.

“When I go home sometimes and we drive into London for the day, she’ll be in the car for an hour and then she’s looking at you when you stop the car, as if to say ‘are we not driving any further?’

“I think I’ve made it very clear to the club’s hierarchy, and the fans. I’ve got my side of the story out – I’ve made it pretty clear how things go,” he says. “I don’t think there’ll be too many questions. I don’t think the summer’s going to be an issue. It’s pretty well-documented how I feel.”