LEON BEST has the opportunity of a lifetime at Newcastle United – and John Carver is confident the striker won’t let the club down, writes Miles Starforth.
Best took his tally for the season to five goals with a strike in Tuesday night’s 2-0 Premier League win at Birmingham City.
Best – and fellow forwards Peter Lovenkrands and Nile Rangers – were handed the difficult task of filling Andy Carroll’s boots after his controversial £35m sale to Liverpool last month.
And assistant manager Carver – who tried to get Best on loan during his time on Sheffield United’s coaching staff earlier this season – is backing them to bring goals to Newcastle between now and the summer, when United will belatedly sign Carroll’s replacement.
“For all the strikers it is a massive opportunity now, especially Leon, Nile and Peter,” said Carver.
“I said to Bestie what a big chance this is for him, and he knows that.
“I was banging on Chris Hughton’s door to get Bestie on loan this season because I rate him so highly.
“He didn’t want to come to Sheffield United because he felt he’d been on loan already in his career, and wanted to knuckle down and carve out a career.
“It couldn’t have worked out better because I’m working with him day in day out. He’s scored again against decent opposition, and I told him again last night ‘it’s in your hands’ in terms of establishing himself as a mainstay striker at Newcastle.
“He and Peter’s movement in recent games has been good, and he’s now getting down the sides and improving each game.”
It took Best a year to open his Newcastle account after his move from Coventry City last January.
The 24-year-old was written off in that barren and injury-hit first 12 months at St James’s Park, and it had been suggested that Pardew was ready to loan the Nottingham-born player out last month.
“He’s very much his own man and doesn’t take much notice to what’s in the papers or what people will say,” added Carver.
“He’s focused on his own game, and he’s got a fresh start. He’s got a big opportunity for a young player, and it’s a case of how far he takes it.
“He hasn’t got a (Alan) Shearer or (Andy) Cole record at the moment, but he’s made a great start to Premier League life with five in seven at Newcastle. That’s a starting point that can be built on. He’s 24, and what a great age to be.”