Newcastle United have been dealt yet another huge blow with concerns over Isaac Hayden’s fitness ahead of Sunday’s relegation scrap with Premier League rivals West Bromwich Albion.
The Magpies were already set to tackle this weekend’s crunch six-pointer without head coach Bruce’s favoured front-three of Callum Wilson, Miguel Almiron and Saint-Maximin due to respective hamstring, knee and groin issues.
Losing Hayden as well will come as a hammer blow to the Toon’s hope of securing all three points at The Hawthorns, as Bruce strives to end United’s three-game winless run and claim what will only be the St James’ Park natives’ third win in 18 games across all competitions.
Newcastle’s dire run of form currently sees the northeast outfit sit just three points clear of the drop zone after 18th-placed Fulham lost to Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday night, which further handed Bruce a game in hand over the Cottagers in the fight for survival.
Hayden has been a fixture of the Magpies’ line-up when fit this season, starting 19 of his 21 top-flight appearances and playing the full 90 minutes on 16 occasions.
Only goalkeeper Karl Darlow (2,250), defender Jamal Lewis (1,827) and 10-goal top scorer Wilson (1,816) have been awarded more minutes on the field than the Arsenal product (1,721) thus far this term.
Hayden has also offered a joint team-high 40 successful tackles with Almiron, alongside a Toon-high 37 interceptions and 22 passes blocked, per WhoScored, as the 25-year-old breaks up opposition play at a vastly superior level to his St. James’ Park teammates.
His efforts additionally see Hayden rank 49th among all Premier League players for successful tackles – Manchester United’s Aaron Wan-Bissaka (72) has the most – 18th for interceptions and 25th for passes blocked.
Should Hayden be deemed unavailable for Newcastle’s trip to relegation rivals West Brom on Sunday, Bruce may have to place his trust in summer signing Jeff Hendrick and hope that the £8.1m-rated flop is able to step up to the challenge at hand.
Hendrick has played no role in United’s last three Premier League games after being shown a second yellow card in January’s 3-2 win over Southampton, which capped off a poor vein of form from the ex-Burnley midfielder whom the Magpies signed as a free agent in August.
The Saints match marked Hendrick’s 16th start in 17 top-flight games with the Toon, despite being slammed by numerous supporters for his efforts against Crystal Palace four days prior, along with producing a torrid performance in January’s 2-0 away to Everton and delivering an anonymous display at Aston Villa.
Hendrick being sent off at home to Southampton also saw that he earned a two out of 10 match rating from Chronicle Live, having been shown a second booking for a needless shirt pull on Takumi Minamino in an act that was described as ‘beyond stupidity’.
Bruce may now need to rely on Hendrick retaking a spot in his midfield should Hayden be ruled unfit, and will have to see the Republic of Ireland international turn a corner with his performances if called upon.