THINK of Southend United’s most successful youth products and Isaac Hayden may not immediately spring to mind.

But the Newcastle United midfielder, who scored a late winner in Saturday’s 1-0 victory against Chelsea, spent several seasons with the Shrimpers as a youngster.

And Blues’ academy manager Ricky Duncan always felt Hayden had what it took to become a first team footballer.

“You could always tell Isaac was a gifted footballer and he had a good head on him for his age too,” said Duncan.

“He was with us from eight or nine until he progressed up through the academy up until leaving when he was 13 or 14.

“He was always that little bit above the rest and he had that ambition in him too.

“It’s been great to see him do so well and as it stands at the moment I would say Isaac is definitely the most successful we’ve had come through.”

Hayden has now made 70 Premier League appearances with Newcastle.

But the midfielder left Blues to team up with Arsenal in Duncan’s first transfer deal upon his return to Roots Hall.

“I can remember we played Arsenal and a couple of scouts spotted him,” said Duncan.

“We played them again and Liam Brady was watching and I remember saying to Ron (Martin) we would do well to keep him.

“Liam rang me about him and Isaac was actually the first lad I sold from the football club.”

But, while Hayden may not have gone on to play for the Shrimpers he still made a big impact on the club.

His subsequent appearances and transfers are believed to have earned Blues close to £1million, a figure Duncan was not willing to confirm.

And his move to Arsenal also set up Blues’ link with the Gunners which led to other moves between the two clubs.

“Isaac’s move helped to build our relationship with Arsenal and we’ve had eight or nine go over now,” said Duncan.

“But it’s worked the other way with us getting the likes of Daniel Bentley and Dru Yearwood.”

However, Hayden - who is now 24 - has not forgotten his roots.

And he was quick to message Duncan when he was named caretaker manager for the Shrimpers towards the end of last season.

“When I stepped in to take the Shrewsbury game last season he was one of the first people to message me to say good luck,” said Duncan.

“It’s nice and he doesn’t have to do that but it shows the man he is and what he’s become.

“He knows where he came from and he enjoyed it here too.

“We had a nice chat when he came back for a pre-season friendly with Newcastle and we had a bit of a laugh because there was a sell-on clause in the deal.

“We obviously don’t want players to leave but it happens and this scenario has been fantastic for him.

“Southend have benefitted along the way too and it’s helped us continue doing what we do.”

But Duncan was not too pleased with Hayden at the weekend.

“It’s great to see Isaac doing well but I’m a Chelsea fan so it wasn’t that great on Saturday,” he added.