Newcastle United midfielder Isaac Hayden has never forgotten his roots.
The 25-year-old is one of, if not the, most successful products of the Southend United Academy.
That’s despite not ever playing a game for the first-team.
He was quickly spotted by Arsenal, who beat Manchester United to his signature, at the age of 13 after a trial game with the north London side.
Now with 75 games under his belt in the top division of the English game, it’s easy to understand why he was a sought after player when coming through the age groups.
His story in the youth set-up at Blues is one not widely told since he wasn’t at the club as he got older, at the age players enter the first-team picture nowadays.
Hayden was actually in touch with the club at the end of March offering his support through the difficult times, a measure of his respect and gratitude for those that taught him so much.
And with the current suspension of football across the English game, we got back in touch with him to discuss his upbringing as a young footballer.
Hayden was full of praise for his former coaches at Blues, as he spoke at length about how he was spotted and signed at a young age, the way he developed into a midfielder, tours he went on and how Academy Manager Ricky Duncan showed a great deal of faith in him.
Part one of our feature interview with the Premier League player is available to watch for free on iFollow Blues right now!
Part Two will be available on Friday, covering his move to Arsenal, loan at Hull City, transfer to Newcastle, pre-season game back at Roots Hall and what advice he would give to any young player in the Academy at the club, or elsewhere, right now.
Our thanks to Isaac and Newcastle United for facilitating this interview.