Hatem Ben Arfa priority is next season for Newcastle United

LONG TERM PLAN: Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa

LONG TERM PLAN: Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa

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HATEM Ben Arfa isn’t yet ready to full rejoin Newcastle United’s relegation battle.

Fit-again Ben Arfa has been put through his paces this week – but he won’t be in Alan Pardew’s starting XI at West Brom.

And the earliest he could start a game is a week today when Liverpool visit St James’s Park.

With Newcastle in a precarious Premier League position, Pardew says he can’t afford to lose Ben Arfa to another recurrence of his hamstring injury.

“I still need to protect his hamstring – I can’t afford to lose him in the run-in,” Pardew told SportMail. “If we can get him into a position where he is fatigued, there’s more chance of him injuring his hamstring again.’

“I will use Hatem the maximum again without him getting into a fatigued area. Basically, I’m going to have to shepherd him back the best I can.

“(I don’t know) whether he can do a full game against Liverpool, if selected, or West Ham, (but) every week there will be more chance of that.”

While keen to play his part in the club’s battle against relegation, Ben Arfa understands Pardew’s caution.

”We need him for next year,” said Pardew. “That’s probably more important than anything else, that we get a good pre-season out of him and he’s raring to go at that kick-off in August.”

SEE Saturday’s Mail newspaper for more from Alan Pardew, plus North-East football, boxing, cricket, Younstars and much, much more