ISAAC Hayden remains grateful to Southend United for the part they played in him becoming a Premier League star.

The Newcastle United midfielder was with the Shrimpers as a youngster before making a move to Arsenal.

And the 25-year-old feels there was nowhere better for him to learn his trade.

“When I think back, honestly hand on heart, there were no better coaches anywhere else at that age I was,” said Hayden.

“I’ve seen Chelsea, Arsenal, Man United and it wasn’t better than the coaches at Southend.

“We used to talk about every game, we did match marks talking about what we did well and what we didn’t and I don’t think many clubs did that back then.

“But they wanted to win as well.

“They had a winning mentality and I’m not sure many others did at that age group.

That mentality stood Hayden in good stead as he has now made 75 appearances in the Premier League.

But things could have worked out differently if Blues had not allowed him to leave for free.

“Nowadays it would all be about the money but Ricky Duncan was quite clever with it and really backed me,” said Hayden, who has since earned the Shrimpers close to £1 million.

“He said they could take me for nothing because he wanted the best for me but if I hit certain targets in the future then they had to pay Southend.

“If they had asked for loads of money it could’ve killed me so for Ricky to do that was massive.

“It gave me the opportunity to go to a better level and Ricky must have thought highly of me to do that.

“They got money when I got a scholarship, a pro contract and when I played for the first team as well.

"There was a sell on clause too for when I joined Newcastle.”