It's not long ago that Norwich City fans wondered whether Isaac Hayden was the solution to their faltering season.

Hayden's impact was palpable as he made his City debut at Vicarage Road, replacing Liam Gibbs with the Canaries 2-1 down to Watford at half time.

The control he added to a midfield desperately lacking it endeared supporters to his brand of no-nonsense midfield work, and against an athletic Hornets side he appeared the answer to City's long-held problems.

What perhaps wasn't being considered was the situation in which Hayden appeared to thrive. His presence may have asserted dominance for the Norfolk club, but Slaven Bilic's side were in the lead and knew they were up against a side that struggled to break stubborn defences down.

And astute their assumptions proved, with few chances created in the second period despite the seeming dominance Hayden provided.

But the excitement was understandable, especially after the unquestionably significant role the midfield vortex played in relegation five months earlier.

Norwich had been searching for a defensive anchor since Oliver Skipp's 2021 departure, and signs of his replacement appeared to be blooming quietly in Hertfordshire.

The Pink Un: Hayden impressed on his debut against Watford.Hayden impressed on his debut against Watford. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

Then-head coach Dean Smith was also pleased with his first signing's contribution, saying: "He is a proper man. He is physical, he can win tackles, he can win headers. He knows how to use the ball, he knows where to be on the pitch. He is a good player."

That ringing endorsement of Hayden's capabilities would have been similar to the discussions on trains and in cars on the way back to Norfolk, but vital was his ability to back it up.

Results were poor in his residence, however, and it quickly became apparent that he was part of the problem rather than an unlucky bystander.

Hayden's full debut was a 1-0 loss to Luton Town, and it took until his fifth game to register a victory in yellow and green.

From there he began to build momentum, and impressed in a hard-fought 2-1 win over Rotherham United at the New York Stadium.

But it wasn't long until the body broke down again, and that had felt like an inevitability in the way he was moving in that starting stint.

Hayden described that second injury as a "soul-destroying feeling", and it felt like one for all connected to the club. The rather rapid realisation that their marquee signing would not pay off was an alarming one as they plotted a route back to the Premier League.

The Pink Un: The 28-year-old returned to parent club Newcastle United with minimal fuss.The 28-year-old returned to parent club Newcastle United with minimal fuss. (Image: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd)

In reality, Hayden's arrival and subsequent struggles left City scrambling for cover for the large majority of their season. He played just 14 times before returning to parent club Newcastle United, and started only nine of those.

As capable as Jacob Sorensen and Liam Gibbs have proven inconsistently, this was the key summer addition that Stuart Webber needed to get right. That lack of involvement is proof that he didn't, and the impacts have been devastating.

As frail as the defence was, there was little protection in front of them at any time. As impotent as the attack was, they were missing someone to win them turnovers and get things on the move.

At Championship level, Hayden could have been that man, had the timing been different and his fitness issues absent.

That wasn't the case, however, and Webber put his trust in a man whose body could not withstand the rigours of a gruelling Championship campaign.

The Welshman defended his recruitment record in his post-season debrief, but Hayden's signing will be another example of where transfer windows have been missed opportunities in recent years.

For the 28-year-old the path is unclear, with the now-Champions League Magpies unlikely to see a path into the first team for him.

What can be said undoubtedly is that this move did not work out for any party other than City's Championship rivals.