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Newcastle looked like they had the title and promotion in the bag recently after having gained an impressive 7 points from 3 away games against Brighton, Huddersfield, and Reading.
Their title tilt was derailed ever so slightly when they lost at home to Fulham in what was most certainly their worst performance of the season. Although Jonjo Shelvey was involved that day, he was clearly tired and de-motivated and the absence of Isaac Hayden has been a problem for a while now.
Newcastle followed that up with a battling, and an uninteresting 0-0 draw at Birmingham which turned out to be an important result, but once again the midfield was weak. Shelvey was rested this time in favour of Diame and Colback, with neither of particularly shining.
The international break has come at just the right time for the Toons, with Shelvey having had a chance to rest and Hayden now being fit to return to the side meaning much better is on the cards in the coming weeks.
Shelvey was described at one point this season as possibly the best player to ever play in the Championship. Capped by England and still just 25, it’s clear that he is not a second tier player. Whether he gets back into the England set-up next season or not, his Premier League class is not in question and there is no doubt whatsoever that he should return immediately to the Newcastle line-up for what will be two crucial home games against Wigan and Burton.
Hayden himself has been a bigger miss than expected. Colback tries hard, Anita puts in a shift when chosen in that position and Shelvey has carried the can. But the fact is that they need more in that area. Mo Diame has moved back from a more forward position to fill in but none of these players have the natural defensive qualities that Hayden possesses.
The former Arsenal man is another player who is definitely of Premier League quality – if not now then in a year or so – and so his absence is negative for Newcastle. The 22-year-old former Arsenal man has been capped by England U-21’s since joining Newcastle. So rather than seeing his step down to the Championship as a bad thing, it’s clear that as an individual he is still improving.
With his injury worries now gone and with plenty of rest, Newcastle can expect to see an even better version of Isaac Hayden to the one who was a crucial part of Newcastle’s impressive middle part of the season which saw them all but wrap-up promotion back to the Premier League. He should certainly start against Wigan.