LEON Best is confident he can again be among the goals – despite the prospect of added competition at Newcastle United.
Birmingham City were today linked with a move for Best, who scored six goals last season.
Alex McLeish is reportedly lining up a replacement for Cameron Jerome, who is tipped to leave St Andrew’s in the wake of their relegation from the Premier League.
However, Best, having proved he can score goals in the top-flight, is itching to return fully fit for pre-season, when he again hopes to impress manager Alan Pardew, who has made signing a striker one of his top summer priorities.
Best missed the first few months of the campaign with an ankle problem, and had another spell out after suffering a setback, and he’s focused on making an early impression in pre-season.
“I have proved to myself and others that I can score in this league,” said Best. “It’s really about staying fit and continuing that.
“I trained towards the end of the season, and obviously played in the last game and things were very good.
“It was a great way to end the season after some injury problems. Now I just want to be ready for next season. I want to be getting fit and challenging for the team again.”
Best’s opportunity came in January after Andy Carroll suffered the thigh problem which would rule him out until his deadline day sale to Liverpool.
The former Coventry City player, signed in January last year, scored a memorable hat-trick in the 5-0 home win over against West Ham United, and also weighed in with three more important goals before being sidelined by injury in March.
And his return of six goals from 10 league appearances has given him confidence ahead of what will be another challenging season.
“I may not have played a lot of games, but when I did play I was in the goals,” Best said.
“Whenever anybody is in doubt (about my ability), I can look back at it and gain confidence from it.”
Best and his team-mates will report back for training in early July ahead of a pre-season which includes three games in the United States.
There are likely to be new faces on the team flight across the Atlantic, and with a strengthened squad, Best is confident Pardew’s side can improve on their 12th-placed finish in their second season back in the Premier League.
“I can’t wait to go to America – it’ll be good for me, and good for the team,” said Best. “Long trips are always a team booster. It’ll do us all well to get out there, and we’ll all enjoy the trip.
“We can only add to what we have already achieve, and that’s certainly the aim. Maybe we can even aim a bit higher.”