Isaac Hayden

Benitez on his future at Newcastle: We’ll meet this week

Leave a comment

Rafa Benitez has made no secret of his wish to receive substantial funds to improve Newcastle’s squad over the past few years, yet he’s been rebuffed time and time again.

This season almost proved to be a breaking point, and despite the thin squad, Benitez guided Newcastle to a 13th place finish in the Premier League table, with 45 points, one more than a year ago. Now, the big question is whether Benitez will remain. His response, basically – we’ll see what happens.

[READ: Newcastle routs Fulham at Craven Cottage]

“We meet hopefully this week and see where we are,” Benitez told BBC’s Match of the Day following Newcastle’s 4-0 win at Fulham on Championship Sunday, referencing a potential meeting with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley. “We have plenty of time to enjoy, I have been very clear about the potential of this club.”

Benitez and Newcastle were able to break the club’s transfer record with the $27 million signing of Miguel Almiron, and while the Paraguayan didn’t score, he did provide a boost to the squad and set up a few goals on Newcastle’s way to securing survival in the Premier League.

However, there’s plenty of improvement needed across the squad, from improving the backline, central midfield, and potentially even at striker. Solomon Rondon is only at the club on loan, at the moment, and while a talented player, he still only finished with 11 goals this season in 34 Premier League matches.

Additionally, Newcastle will likely lose holding midfielder Isaac Hayden this summer as he looks to move to a club in London where he can be closer to his daughter and family. Should Benitez leave, there could be further overhaul, something that may negatively impact right back DeAndre Yedlin and Almiron moving forward.

Newcastle’s Hayden on family struggles that nearly derailed season

1 Comment

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.

[ STREAM: Every PL match live ]

“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.”

Premier League preview: Newcastle v. Crystal Palace

Getty Images
Leave a comment
  • Newcastle has lost just 1 of its last 16 matches v. Palace
  • Crystal Palace has 19 away goals in 2019, a joint-league high
  • Newcastle has a five-game home PL winning streak

Amid speculation about Rafa Benitez‘s uncertain future, Newcastle takes to the field as the Magpies host Crystal Palace at St. James Park on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. ET live on NBCSN or live online at NBCSports.com.

With his contract set to run out this summer, Benitez claimed the “ball is in Newcastle United’s court” when it comes to an extension. While he looks to finish out the season strong amid the speculation, Newcastle takes on Crystal Palace to begin one of the more lenient run-ins among the Premier League, at least on paper. The Magpies have remaining games against Fulham, Brighton, Southampton, and Crystal Palace remaining to go along with top-half matchups with Liverpool and Leicester City.

[ MORE: Watch Newcastle v. Crystal Palace live on NBCSports.com ]

Newcastle also has good news on the injury front, with Isaac Hayden, Mohamed Diame and DeAndre Yedlin all either returning this weekend or close to doing so in the near future. In addition, Jonjo Shelvey and Ki Sung-Yeung have both recently returned from long injury troubles and could see more time on the field in the coming matches.

For Crystal Palace, the magical 40-point threshhold is just four points away, and while they’re already all but safe with an eight-point cushion with six matches to go, matches such as this provide an opportunity amid a bit tougher of a late-season fixture list. The Eagles still have matches against Manchester City, Arsenal, and Everton remaining before meeting Cardiff City and Bournemouth to close out the campaign.

Roy Hodgson will have Andros Townsend to call upon, with the England international returning from a hand injury as a substitute midweek. Other than a long-term knee injury to Mamadou Sakho, there are no other certain injury concerns for Crystal Palace ahead of the road visit to St. James.

What they’re saying

Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez on his contract situation: “The only club I’m talking about my future [with] now is Newcastle United, and I’m waiting for an answer. Why? Because we have been in contact and I’m waiting for an answer.”

Crystal Palace manager Roy Hodgson on their table position:  “We haven’t actually gone out saying we’re safe. We can’t stop the general opinion that’s out there – we realize we need more points and we also realize we’ll be coming across some very good teams that’ll make it hard for us to get those points.”

Prediction

While there’s not a ton on the line for these two teams, these two seasoned managers know how to motivate a squad with little to play for. Benitez in particular will have his job – not on the line, but plenty to prove. The home crowd should boost Newcastle, and with a healthy squad, the Magpies will win a fun one 3-2.

Almiron sizzles for Newcastle (video)

Leave a comment
  • Smith sent off, 10th minute
  • Rondon with goal, assist
  • Almiron makes first Premier League start
  • Newcastle four points clear of 18th

Salomon Rondon and Ayoze Perez scored as Newcastle United collected a cool three points with a 2-0 defeat of 10-man Huddersfield Town at St. James’ Park on Saturday.

Newcastle and MLS record transfer Miguel Almiron was fantastic in his first Premier League start, doing everything but score including drawing a 20th minute red card from Tommy Smith.

Newcastle moves onto 28 points, four clear of the drop zone, while the visiting Terriers remain 14 points back of safety with 11 matches to play in their PL season.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

The team’s traded early chances, but Miguel Almiron nearly made himself an instant Newcastle hero when sprung 1v1 with Jonas Lossl. But his chip hit the post and Salomon Rondon’s rebound hit the same piece of iron.

Another Newcastle break led to a Fabian Schar shot directly to Lossl, who minutes later got a piece of Rondon’s in-tight effort on goal.

With Town under pressure, Tommy Smith saw straight red for a foul on Almiron.

The ex-Atlanta United man would get the next chance, with Lossl stopped his near-post effort.

Lossl then lost an Almiron shot between his legs and Chris Lowe cleared the effort.

Yedlin cued up Perez for another shot that Lossl tipped out for a corner, and Rondon’s diving attempt to head a as Huddersfield was happy to get to halftime down just a man and not a goal or three.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule

Isaac Hayden‘s mistouch turned into a fine assist, as Rondon lashed past Lossl within 90 seconds of the match’s restart.

The Magpies doubled its advantage and started working on their goal differential when Perez completed a move started by an Almiron cross and moved ahead by Yedlin and Rondon.

Almiron almost cued Perez up for 3-0, but the Spaniard spun his shot just wide of the near post. Almiron was then stopped by Lossl before Longstaff hit the cross bar.

The Paraguayan import got wild applause when he was replaced by Christian Atsu with under 10 minutes to play.

Late Boly goal saves Wolves in draw with Newcastle (video)

Leave a comment
  • Willy Boly‘s 95th minute header earned a draw for Wolves
  • Newcastle sit just one point above the relegation zone
  • Miguel Almiron made his Newcastle debut

Willy Boly saved the day for Wolverhampton Wanderers at home as they drew, 1-1 with Newcastle on Monday evening. The tall French centerback rose highest to head home a dramatic mistake from Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka in the fifth minute of extra time, saving a point for Wolves and denying the Magpies three vital points for the second consecutive match.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

With the draw, Newcastle sit just one point above Southampton and the relegation zone, with 25 points from 26 games.

Wolves meanwhile are in seventh place, with 39 points on the season.

Earlier in the second half, Isaac Hayden put Newcastle up front with a blast of a strike that Rui Patricio couldn’t keep out, and it seemed Newcastle were well on their way to victory against a Wolves side that seemed to be missing that cutting edge. Newcastle were later boosted offensively by the introduction of record signing from Atlanta United, Miguel Almiron, off the bench in the 72nd minute.

In the first half, Wolves certainly had more thrust and attacking vigor, working Newcastle’s right and left side early and often. However, the Magpies were resolute defensively, including the U.S. Men’s National Team’s DeAndre Yedlin at right back. Neither side was able to create too much on goal, but it seemed like whichever team tired or made the mistake first would be punished.

That happened when Wolves fell asleep in the 56th minute. Fabian Schär has acres of space to run into, and his through ball on the ground found the midfielder Hayden advancing into the box. Hayden fired on goal and perhaps surprised Patricio, scoring inside the near post to give Newcastle a lead.

With Almiron on, it seemed as if Newcastle may add to the lead. Almiron showed no fear in running at the Wolves defense but clearly isn’t at his sharpest after two months without a game.

However, it was a crucial mistake in the game’s final moments that saved a point for Wolves and stole two from Newcastle. Manager Rafa Benitez might rue this moment should Newcastle go down, missing out on four of the last six points available due to goalkeeper errors.