Newcastle’s Isaac Hayden was “knocked to hell” by coronavirus, according to Magpies manager Steve Bruce.
Hayden was one of three Newcastle players to feature in the 2-1 win over West Brom after contracting Covid-19 in an outbreak that caused last week’s game at Aston Villa to be postponed.
Usually a midfielder, he filled in in defence because Javier Manquillo and Federico Fernandez were absent.
“Coronavirus ripped through us,” Bruce told BBC Radio 5 Live.
Of Hayden, Bruce said: “I didn’t think I would have him until last Monday, so for him to get out of bed and produce a performance like that was great to see.
“Isaac was in bed for 10 days and inevitably the three I was checking were the three who had the virus. You can be negative, but the fatigue is key to it and the magnitude and the way it ripped through everybody was frightening.”
🗣 "Fair play to them all. Three of them were out there who have recovered from the virus so I couldn't be more pleased."
Steve Bruce on today's win.
— Newcastle United FC (@NUFC) December 12, 2020
As well as the game against Villa being called off, Newcastle’s training ground was shut down for a week.
They returned to action with a victory that leaves them 11th in the Premier League, four points behind fourth-placed Leicester.
“We tried to play it down and we weren’t looking for any excuses but they’ve stuck together. I think we finished with three midfielders in the back four,” said Bruce.
“I couldn’t be more pleased. With the problems we’ve had, the work they’ve done at home or parks or whatever – I couldn’t speak highly enough of them. Their effort and endeavour was spot on.
“I can’t give enough credit to the players and staff, and certainly the medical department. The decision to shut us down was absolutely spot on.”
Despite their difficulties in the build-up, Newcastle flew out of the blocks against the Baggies, scoring after just 20 seconds through Miguel Almiron.
Darnell Furlong equalised early in the second half but substitute Dwight Gayle headed the winner to make it back-to-back wins for Bruce’s side for the first time this season.
Bruce admitted afterwards he expected his team to struggle at times, especially with fatigue later in the game.
“I didn’t want to make excuses but I was expecting it, especially from those who have had the virus,” he said. “It was about watching them that had it. You are mindful of that of course.
“Fair play to them and thankfully they are OK. But I couldn’t have wished for a better start.”