Isaac Hayden says he’ll be working overtime ahead of Huddersfield Town’s visit to St James’s Park – as he pushes for a recall at Newcastle United.
Hayden played 90 minutes in Sunday’s friendly against Royal Antwerp in Spain.
The 135-minute game, which ended 1-1, was arranged to top up the players’ fitness after the club was left with a 21-day break between Premier League fixtures.
Hayden and those players not on international duty must now maintain their fitness ahead of the March 31 match against Huddersfield.
“The game wasn’t played at the highest of tempo, especially from their side, who I don’t think were really playing at a Premier League level,” said Hayden.
“But it’s still minutes under your belt, and gives us another chance for more gametime going forward, which is what we wanted.
“We had four days of good weather to train in out in Spain, a good facility and a nice hotel, so we can’t have any complaints.
“Now back in England for the non-internationals, and we have some hard work ahead – particularly for those of us who haven’t played too much recently, because we don’t want our fitness levels to drop.
“We’ll work hard over the next week and get ready for another huge game against Huddersfield.”
The Antwerp game was split into three 45-minute periods.
“It was nice,” said midfielder Hayden, who has found his opportunities limited by the form of Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame in recent weeks.
“It was what it was supposed to be – three 45-minute periods during which everyone got a decent chunk of gametime from.
“Antwerp weren’t a bad side. In the first period, they weren’t at their best, but then they started to bring on their better players and became more competitive.
“It was sloppy from us not to win the game. In the third period, with players coming on and off it, probably affected us a little bit.
“It was strange waiting to come on knowing you’re going to play the full 90, as you don’t usually have that as a substitute.
“But the main thing is that you want to get minutes. I don’t mind if it was even the last 45 minutes, I just wanted to get some gametime.
“It’s been difficult to get in the starting XI as the lads have been doing really well, so I can’t have any complaints at the minute that I haven’t been playing.
“It was just good to get more than 10 or 15 minutes, which is all I’ve been having over the last four or five weeks, so that was nice.”
United manager Rafa Benitez handed debuts to Victor Fernandez and Nathan Harker at the Pinatar Arena in Murcia.
“It was a chance for the manager to try some different players and different combinations out on the pitch, so it was a good exercise in that regard,” said Hayden.