Newcastle United’s Hatem Ben Arfa given Demba Ba challenge

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ALAN Pardew has challenged Hatem Ben Arfa to fill Demba Ba’s boots at Newcastle United.

Ben Arfa this week told of his frustration at a lack of starts.

The forward was an unused substitute in Wednesday night’s 3-0 win over Manchester United at the Sports Direct Arena.

However, Ben Arfa is a contender to start up front in tomorrow’s home FA Cup tie against Blackburn Rovers, with top-scorer Ba having left for the African Cup of Nations.

“Hatem’s already stated that he wants a chance, and obviously in this period I’ve always thought he’d get it,” Pardew said.

“He now needs to show us what’s he got, and show us his ability.”

What Pardew is keen to see Ben Arfa do is back up his undoubted talent with work-rate, with the France international having frustrated in a couple of his appearances this season.

Another option for Pardew is Leon Best, who came off the bench against Sir Alex Ferguson’s side.

The 24-year-old’s pushing for a start against Blackburn, with Pardew believing he has a lot to offer.

“We also have Leon Best who has had a great season,” added Pardew.

“People say he had a great year last year, but he’s played in all of our big victories this year. He’ll get a really good chance now.”

Danny Simpson’s long-running contract saga could be nearing an end after talks restarted with Newcastle United.

Negotiations were put on hold late last year after a deal couldn’t be reached.

But a fresh round of talks has seen an improved offer made to the 24-year-old, who is keen to commit his long-term future to the club.

Simpson’s deal runs out next year, and manager Alan Pardew said after discussions broke down that if a resolution couldn’t be found, he would be forced to look for a new right-back in the summer.

However, a revised four-and-a-half year contract could now be agreed, ending an unsettling few months for Simpson.