When Newcastle suffered a midfield crisis, the Toon couldn’t have dreamt about the Isaac Hayden/ Sean Longstaff pairing working so well.
With Jonjo Shelvey and Mo Diame injured, and Ki Sung-Yeung on international duty, Rafa Benitez had no option but to play the wantaway Hayden alongside the untested Longstaff.
However, the pair have played a huge role in the revival of Newcastle United of late. In the last six games, the Magpies have won four, drawn one and only conceded three goals.
Longstaff has rightly received plaudits from fans and pundits. He has consistently covered the most distance on the pitch, but Hayden’s contribution can’t go unnoticed. The pairing has worked in the same way that Diame and Shelvey complimented each other last season. The duo suit each other’s style and have helped propel the Magpies up the table and clear of the relegation zone.
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Without being forced into playing the pair, Newcastle may have still struggled to tick. Miguel Almiron has helped bring anticipation and excitement to the stands, but the centre midfield pairing has helped shore up a faltering system.
With the duo in the team, the Magpies have moved up a gear. Hayden, often thought of as a holding player, is having success in a more forward-thinking role. Alongside him, Longstaff is making everything look so simple in front of the back line.
West Ham United are next and the unlikely heroes will have the full support of the Toon Army. There is now a new Geordie icon and Hayden’s commitment can no longer be questioned.
Come the end of the season, their contribution will have certainly been a major factor in the Magpies’ survival if, as is looking more likely, they stay up.