ISAAC HAYDEN is convinced he has played his last game at St James’ Park after maintaining that he still wants to leave Newcastle United before the start of next season.

The 24-year-old midfielder has made no secret of his desire to be closer to his Essex roots and discussions with the Magpies have left him feeling like he will be moving on.

It is a blow to Newcastle regardless of whether Rafa Benitez stays on because he has become the team’s key midfielder, playing alongside Sean Longstaff, Mo Diame, Ki Sung-Yeung and Jonjo Shelvey at different times.

Despite his influence on the side, though, Hayden has not changed his tune and still wants to go for personal reasons, having got frustrated at having to make a five-hour drive south regularly with his young daughter.

Hayden said: “I think I will be going. I have spoken to the club about it and they’ve been open and honest with me. I’m pretty sure Saturday was my last game at home. In football, you never know, so I can’t say for definite, although it’s looking like my last game here.

“Nothing has changed. It’s not what is best for me or my family to be playing here next season and to be doing the travelling I have done this season.

“It’s unfortunate but the club know my stance and have known it for a year now. There is no excuses going into the summer. It’s about getting the deal right for the club and for myself.”

Hayden first asked to leave last summer, shortly after the birth of his child. That request has been left on the table since then, but Benitez did not feel he could let him go with the options he had available.

The former Arsenal youngster still has two years remaining on his contract so Newcastle will be keen to make a sizeable profit on the £2.6m they paid for him in July 2016. His performances in the Premier League are likely to have significantly influenced his valuation.

“I’ve got no idea (what fee), that’s for the club to decide,” said Hayden. “You could arguably say I’m worth more now than what they would have asked for in January or last summer, because I’ve played a lot more games. But that’s for them to decide.

“The main thing for me is that I don’t want to go backwards. I want to move forwards and improve. I’ve always had confidence in my ability and now I’ve had the opportunity to show it. It’s about finding the right opportunity next, one that will allow the club to maximise the profit and be right for myself.”

Brighton and Crystal Palace are two of the clubs to have previously been credited with an interest in Hayden from the top-flight, while Premier League new-boys Norwich could now present a strong option. Hayden has enjoyed his time playing for Newcastle, but will not be changing his mind.

He said: “It’s a fantastic club. You wouldn’t want to actively try to leave a club when you have 52,000 fans every home game. But, for me, I have a daughter and a fiancee, soon to be wife, who I have to put first.

“To me, they are more important than football will ever be. Hopefully, something can be done and the club have been quite proactive with that, so I don’t think there will be a problem.”

Regardless of whether Hayden leaves or not, he believes there is one man worth a lot more to Newcastle. As things stand Benitez is set to take charge of his final game as manager at Fulham on Sunday before his contract expires.

Hayden said: “It’s very important the manager stays. But it doesn’t matter what players say, no one can influence that but the hierarchy of the club, it’s up to them to come up with a package that the manager is happy with.

“He’s proven with the tools he’s been given so far he can be successful. To get promoted at the first time of asking was not easy, and then to finish tenth and then mid-table again, it’s a success, especially with the tools he’s been given to do it.”

And having witnessed Newcastle develop as a team under Benitez despite a lack of investment in comparison to Premier League rivals, Hayden knows that the rest of the squad is just as determined to bring more successful times to St James’.

“It’s a frustrated dressing-room. If you ask any player in that dressing-room, every single one of them wants to improve,” said Hayden. “There is no one in there who wants to shy away and does not want better players arriving. The only way you get better is by bringing in better players.

“The fixture list was horrible at the start and we couldn’t buy a win. We knew the tide would turn when the fixtures became more kind. We found our form second half of the season.”