Search

Early grounding stands Arsenal youngster in good stead

07:29 23 January 2014

Isaac Hayden

Isaac Hayden

Archant

For any young footballer, the balance between the natural desire to progress and maintaining a level head can be a delicate one.

It might be tempting for an 18-year-old – especially one who has made his first-team debut for one of the country’s biggest clubs and come within touching distance of Champions League football – to get carried away.

But there is little danger of that happening to Arsenal’s young midfielder Isaac Hayden – and one of the main reasons for that is the influence of his dad.

Sol Hayden, a former Aston Villa youth team player, has kept a close eye on his son’s career, all the way from Sunday league football to Southend United’s Under-10s and signing for the Gunners at the age of 13.

“I wanted to join a Sunday team with my mates from school when I was about eight and I went to one training session,” recalled Hayden junior, who grew up in Brentwood, Essex.

“Dad watched the session and said he didn’t feel it was good enough for me, so he took it on himself to do two hours on a Saturday, two hours on a Sunday and two hours in the week with me, one to one. We did that for a year and then I joined a team.

“My dad’s guidance has been really important. Even when I was about 10, we used to go through things on tactics boards and that gave me a good knowledge of the game which has helped me since.

“He’s always wanted me to take the right steps at the right time and not to get ahead of myself and progress too quickly. When Arsenal came in for me, he thought it was the right time.

“If I had a bad game, he wasn’t one of those parents that reacted in a way that meant you had a problem in the car on the way home! We’d talk through what I did well, what I did badly and move on.

“You see some players who take it really badly when they get criticised, especially at a younger age, and it can affect their performances.

“Even at youth team level, a coach might get on to them about something and you see their heads drop. Because I’ve had a lot of feedback from when I was nine or 10, it helped me to deal with it a lot easier.”

Hayden, who can play at centre-back as well as his preferred defensive midfield role, established himself as a regular member of the Gunners’ Under-21 side last season.

He also helped Arsenal to reach the semi-finals of the now abandoned NextGen Series and has featured in its replacement, the UEFA Youth League.

However, Hayden had to miss the Gunners’ opening match of that tournament in Marseille after a spate of injuries meant he was summoned to join the substitutes’ bench for the first team’s Champions League tie instead.

Just a week later, the teenager experienced one of the key moments of any player’s career – his senior Arsenal debut in their Capital One Cup tie away to West Brom.

“I didn’t actually know I was starting the game,” Hayden admitted. “I was pleased to be in the squad and, even on the bus to the ground, I was thinking hopefully I could get 20 minutes.

“In the changing room, the shirts are all lined up for the starters, then the subs are in the next line. I automatically walked towards where the subs were and saw that [Mathieu] Flamini’s shirt was there but mine wasn’t.

“So I asked [kitman] Vic Akers where my shirt was and he said ‘it’s over there, next to Vermaelen and Mertesacker’. But I still didn’t fully realise I was starting until Steve Bould came over to run through some tactics with me!

“It was a shock, but a good shock. I wouldn’t say I’m a nervous player anyway, but it was good the way it happened and I got 84 minutes under my belt, so I was happy with that.”

Hayden has made no secret of his admiration for former Arsenal skipper Patrick Vieira and cites the French World Cup winner – along with Roy Keane – as the players who have had the greatest influence on his own style of play.

However, in recent months he has had the opportunity to work with some of the current star names in Arsene Wenger’s squad and learn from them as well.

“Since Flamini came back to the club, it’s definitely been a great help watching him play,” Hayden added.

“He’s always looking over his shoulder to block the ball to the centre-forward, he’s always talking and organising – he’s got a great passing range, he can tackle and he can head the ball.

“So I can definitely learn from him and it’s also been an inspiration to see how well someone like Jack Wilshere, coming through the ranks at Arsenal, has moved forward. Those two, especially, are always a help in training.”

As well as picking up valuable tips from individual players, Hayden feels that the first team’s success this season has had a positive knock-on effect for himself and the other youngsters at the club.

“Because the first team are doing so well, it’s not pressure as such but there’s almost a feeling for the Under-21s that we’ve got to keep up, and you have that same sort of feeling throughout the youth ranks,” he said.

“I think when you go over and see the way they train and the team spirit, it generally creates a good atmosphere around the club. Everyone’s happy and it does have an impact.

“You always want more, not in a bad way. You don’t want to just settle for the easy option and say ‘I’ve made my debut now, I’ve been involved with the Champions League’.

“You want to actually play in the Champions League and play in the Premier League. It’s a natural progression to want more things and it’s about working hard for them and giving it your all to get to that level.”

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Sports News

Yesterday, 22:30
Michel Vorm (left) slides in to tackle Liverpool's Sadio Mane

Reserve goalkeepers can be easily forgotten - just ask Michel Vorm.

Saturday, August 27, 2016
Danny Rose (right) celebrates his leveller at White Hart Lane. Pic: Steve Paston/PA Wire

Danny Rose cancelled out James Milner’s first-half penalty with a second-half equaliser as Spurs drew 1-1 with Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Here are five talking points.

Friday, August 26, 2016
Gary McCann has played for and managed Hendon in memorable FA Cup ties. Pic: Andrew Aleksiejczuk

In the latest of a series of features casting the spotlight on local football fans, David Ballheimer reveals his favourite players and his most memorable matches during his time following Hendon.

Friday, August 26, 2016
Middlesex bowler Tim Murtagh

With just a month of the season remaining, Middlesex appear better-placed to become county champions than at any time since their last title 23 years ago.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Crystal Palace's Wilfried Zaha (right) could soon be lining up alongside Tottenham's Victor Wanyama (left) after Spurs made a move to sign the 23-year-old today

Mauricio Pochettino admits he would like to sign a pacy attacking midfielder before the end of the transfer window as Tottenham seek to bring Crystal Palace winger Wilfried Zaha to White Hart Lane.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino

Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino admits he is frustrated that a host of his players will be departing for international duty again after this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Laura Hirai in action for the Great Britain Under-19 team at the ESF Junior Womens European Softball Championship in Barcelona

Like most 16-year-olds, Laura Hirai’s primary concern today (Thursday) is her GCSE results. But four days after the end of the Rio 2016 Olympics, when the baton was passed to Tokyo and a new four-cycle began, the teenager is also dreaming about being involved in the 2020 Games.

Thursday, August 25, 2016
Wingate & Finchley goalkeeper Shane Gore. Pic: Martin Addison

Filling the well-worn boots of Bobby Smith doesn’t faze Shane Gore – it’s actually a case of déjà vu for Wingate & Finchley’s new No1.

PROMOTED CONTENT

The showroom is located in Hayes

After 25 years as a trade-only business, family-run door manufacturers Composite Door Master are set to open their first public showroom in Hayes this weekend.

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Most read Hampstead & Highgate sport

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Property Newsletter Sign-up

Get the latest North London property news and features straight to your inbox with our regular newsletter

I am also happy to receive other emails...
Fields marked with a * are mandatory
Email Marketing by e-shot

Competitions

You could win £15,000 to spend on either their mortgage or a deposit towards the home of their dreams

Wouldn’t it be lovely to have a period of time when you simply don’t have to worry about finding the money each month to pay your mortgage? When you don’t have to put money aside from your monthly income, or worry about having to afford other essential outgoings?

Which book character do you share cleaning habits with?

Whether you have more in common with put-upon Cinderella, emotionally turbulent Jane Eyre, or easily distracted Mole, you’re sure to appreciate that one lucky winner will receive four sessions of free cleaning. Enter our quiz for your chance to win. All runners up will get £10 off their first clean when making a repeat booking.

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now