ALAN Pardew has warned England to be wary of Yohan Cabaye after backing the Newcastle United ace to star in Euro 2012.
Pardew is relishing this month’s European Championships, which pits England against Cabaye and his club-mate Hatem Ben Arfa in their opening game.
And Newcastle’s manager is keen to watch the encounter at the Donbass Arena in Donetsk on Monday.
Midfielder Cabaye, 26, an increasingly influential player for his country after an outstanding first season in the Premier League, is certain to make Laurent Blanc’s starting XI after injuries to fellow midfielders Yann M’Vila and Blaise Matuidi.
He played 51 minutes in last night’s 4-0 win over Estonia, while forward Ben Arfa - who played his way into Blanc’s plans with a superb run in Pardew’s side in the latter months of the season - appeared as a 73rd-minute substitute.
An injury-hit England team have above all else looked organised and disciplined in their two friendlies under Roy Hodgson - 1-0 victories over Belgium and Norway - but Cabaye and 25-year-old Ben Arfa are capable of unlocking any defence.
And Pardew is intrigued by the contest, which pits the natural flair of the French team against what is proving a stubborn, counter-attacking Hodgson side, which is expected to feature former United striker Andy Carroll.
“Yohan playing makes the game all the more interesting,” Pardew told SportMail.
“We know the threat he carries, and he’ll be more than a match for anyone in the tournament. I’m delighted for Hatem as well.
“It’s an interesting game, and I can’t wait for it. I’m looking forward to it.
“I’ll watch the tournament on TV, though I might go to one game. I’d take in England-France if there was an opportunity to do that.”
Pardew backed the hugely-experienced Hodgson to take England forward after his appointment as Fabio Capello’s successor.
However, Hodgson’s late appointment and a resultant lack of time with his players - as well as a rash of injuries - have dampened expectations ahead of the tournament.
“England have got a chance, like in any tournament,” added Pardew. “Hopefully, we’ll do well in it.”
Meanwhile, Celtic are eyeing up Newcastle striker Leon Best.
The Republic of Ireland international looks set to leave Tyneside after slipping down the pecking order at St James’s Park last season.
And with just a year left on his contract, Best will be offered to clubs, including Scottish champions Celtic, as Newcastle look to let a number of their squad members leave.
Best had the chance to join the Bhoys on transfer deadline day last season, but opted to stay at Newcastle and fight for his place.
But he picked up a knee injury against Aston Villa and was substituted for new signing Papiss Demba Cisse - who went on to bag 13 goals in 14 Premier league appearances.
Even when Best returned from injury, he was unable to add a single minute to his appearance tally of 21 games, with Cisse, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa making up United’s front three, and Shola Ameobi proving to be Alan Pardew’s preferred replacement.
First-team chances are likely to be limited again when the new season kicks off, even with the added fixtures the Europa League brings, meaning Best must weigh up his options this summer.
A source close to the 26-year-old said: “Leon had the chance to go last January, but chose to stay on.
“He’s expecting opportunities to go again this summer, but will wait to see what happens.”
“He likes it at Newcastle and wouldn’t have a problem staying on.”