HATEM Ben Arfa says he’s come back stronger from his time on the bench – thanks to Newcastle United’s fans.
The forward made his first start in almost two months in yesterday’s 5-1 Premier League win over nine-man Stoke City at St James’s Park.
Ben Arfa had a hand in three of sixth-placed Newcastle’s goals, and also struck the woodwork twice.
The 27-year-old – who had come off the bench and scored a penalty in last weekend’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace – has had a long wait for a start because of the form of the likes of Yoan Gouffran, Moussa Sissoko and Shola Ameobi.
But Ben Arfa was handed a start in the absence of the suspended Cheik Tiote – and he seized it with both hands.
“We’re very happy,” Ben Arfa saide. “We won, which is the most important thing.
“And I was very happy to be on the pitch. I hadn’t started for two months, and I gave all my energy.
“Every time I came on, I tried to do my best. The crowd supported me when I was on the bench, and that made me stronger.
“I want to say thank you to them. Even when I was on the bench, they supported me. They give you confidence and strength.
“I’m very happy, but the most important thing was that we won.”
Before the game United manager Alan Pardew insisted that Ben Arfa had no issue with having to wait for his chance.
And Ben Arfa, for his part, feels the team’s success is a collective effort.
“We have a big squad,” said Pardew. “We have very good players on the bench and on the pitch. That’s very important for us.
“Everybody contributes. The spirit is important. When somebody is on the bench, he still motivates us in the dressing room. Everybody is together.”
Newcastle went behind to a 29th-minute goal from Oussama Assaidi.
But the dismissals of Glenn Whelan and Marc Wilson late in the first half turned the game, and goals Loic Remy (2), Yoan Gouffran, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Demba Cisse saw United record their biggest win yet of a hugely-promising season.
“We felt very good out there with the crowd behind us,” said Ben Arfa. “All the players took pleasure from playing together.
“When that happens, we have a great game.
“We started well, but after 15 minutes, we were a little bit slow. They created chances and scored.
“I think they had players sent off as we caused problems for them.
“It’s not easy to win, even against nine players. A lot of people think it’s easy, but it’s not.
“You have to be clever. It showed we’re a good team at the minute.”