ALAN Pardew is confident Newcastle United fans WILL see Hatem Ben Arfa again this season, writes Miles Starforth.
And the winger (below) could make his long-awaited comeback from a double leg break at Anfield next month, having returned to the club’s training ground this week after months of rehabilitation.
Ben Arfa’s return will be a welcome one for Pardew, who has been beset by injuries and suspensions in recent weeks.
Pardew’s more immediate concern is Sunday’s visit to Villa Park, for which his options have been decimated by injury and suspension.
Jose Enrique (hamstring) should be fit to return after missing Newcastle’s last game, while Ryan Taylor will be available again after serving a suspension.
However, Pardew yesterday lost Leon Best for the season – the striker is set to undergo surgery on his injured ankle on Friday – and he will be without captain Kevin Nolan, Cheik Tiote and James Perch for the Aston Villa game because of bans.
On Best, Pardew said: “I had an inkling last week all was not well. It’s best to get him right and ready to rumble next season.
“We’ve also got Stephen Ireland, though he’s ineligible for Aston Villa. People might think he’s been here since January and not done anything, but he’s trained well and the team’s trained well.
“I think we’ve got more than enough to see us through to the season finish. Shola (Ameobi) and Peter (Lovenkrands) have played brilliantly, both of them.
“Chiek Tiote will be back for Manchester United, but we’re a little short for Villa. Jose Enrique trained yesterday and I don’t think he’ll be a problem for Villa.
“We’ve lost James Perch, as well, but Ryan Taylor comes in. It’s unlucky for James, because he had a chance of starting at the weekend. He’s disappointed, but he’ll get another opportunity.”
Meanwhile, there had been fears Ben Arfa – who suffered his injury under a crude challenge from Nigel De Jong in October – wouldn’t play again this season, but the winger is making steady progress.
Pardew, however, will be understandably cautious with the 24-year-old, whose first appearance back in black and white could be away to Liverpool on May 1.