Is it time for Isaac Hayden to come back in the side?
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 25: Isaac Hayden of Newcastle tackles John McGinn of Villa during the Premier League match between Aston Villa and Newcastle United at Villa Park on November 25, 2019 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Simon Stacpoole/Offside/Offside via Getty Images)

Five months can be a long time in football terms, and that proved the case in the second half of last season for Newcastle United.

Last January, Isaac Hayden trudged off the field in the 57th minute of their FA Cup third-round clash against Blackburn Rovers, and it in honestly it looked like St James' Park was the last place he wanted to be.

It was no secret he wanted a move away to be closer to the needs of his young family, but what transpired following the Blackburn draw was quite remarkable. 

An injury crisis to Newcastle's midfield meant the ex-Arsenal youth player partnered alongside Sean Longstaff and to their credit, the team had a dramatic upturn in form.

It was a huge U-turn in what everybody had seen from Hayden, highlighting the true professionalism the 24-year-old carries.

Key man in this Newcastle set-up

It seems an awfully long time ago now since United's Championship-winning season.

That campaign saw Hayden partner Jonjo Shelvey for the bulk of it, and albeit against lower quality opposition, the pair looked far superior and a level above.

Hayden was only 21-years-old then when he signed for the club, touted as a player for the future years on Tyneside. 

But after impressing early on it has been a steady growth that, fast-forward three-and-a-half-years, has seen Hayden become a solid defensive midfielder at this level. 

His midfield partner of last year Longstaff and January loan signing Nabil Bentaleb have been cemented in the starting line-up in recent weeks but Steve Bruce could shake things up for the trip of Burnley.

Bentaleb has shown midfield quality in the past that made him attractive to Newcastle, but a lack of regular football pre-January has made it difficult to stamp his authority.

He's generally a one goal per season player, and if the last goal Hayden bagged is to be the only one this season then it will be easily forgiven - that injury-time winner versus Chelsea gave United a vital three points one month ago. 

The defensive solidarity that United have built over the past couple of seasons has gifted the opportunity for a player of his type, a player to sit in and do the ugly miles and look after the ball. 

United to keep the ball better

Not only did Bruce bemoan his side's lack of goal threat after their defeat to Crystal Palace last week, but he also commented on his side's ability to keep the ball. 

Sean Longstaff made an excellent start to his Newcastle career, and whilst he hasn't hit the high standards he set himself recently, he is sure to be given plenty more opportunities.

But if Bruce wants his team to look after the ball better, maybe it is time to re-introduce Hayden to bolster up the midfield and there would be no harm in freshening things up.

There will be an important run-in to come for United, as well as an FA Cup fifth-round tie at West Bromwich Albion next week, the group of central midfielders have to stay fit to give them Bruce some options. 

They lost this season's unlikely star in Ciaran Clark to an ankle injury during the Emirates defeat, but Hayden has not been far behind the likes of Clark and Martin Dubravka.

Maybe on Saturday, he will get his opportunity again.

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