Talking to the Chronicle, he said that Steve Bruce had come in and got the Newcastle players on board. However, in a less-than-cryptic reference to Benitez, he criticised Newcastle’s defensive style of old.
“Under previous managers, we have been a lot more defensive and solid but still ended up losing games,” Hayden said.
“We lost tight games when being defensive,” he added, “but against Arsenal we took the game to them and took a few more gambles. It paid off to an extent. If it wasn’t for good saves from their keeper and our final balls it could have been different.”
Hayden won’t have forgotten that he’s only played under one previous manager at Newcastle. He was signed by Benitez in July 2016, four months after the Spaniard took over.
Fans also won’t have forgotten that the relationship between the two was often tense, with the player handing in a transfer request for personal reasons. It led to Chronicle journalist Chris Waugh saying that Benitez was finding it hard to trust the player.
To be fair to Hayden he’s turned it around at Newcastle after a shaky start to last season saw him get a red card in the first away game of the season.
On Bruce, Hayden said, “When a new manager comes in it is always difficult for himself and the players. But I think the players have taken to him really well. They have understood the direction he wants to go in.”
For Bruce, getting the players on board is obviously vital to the club’s success, but Benitez did a brilliant job at Newcastle under difficult circumstances.
He played defensively when he needed to and it will be interesting to see how Bruce adapts to the Premier League. Norwich showed what can happen when you try to take the game to the big boys when Liverpool hit them for four in the first half of their opening game of the season.
Hayden should be careful not to misjudge the mood at St James’ Park and he should keep praise of Bruce to the positive and steer away from taking a dig at Benitez.