ALAN Pardew admitted it was hard to look Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa in the eye after leaving him out of his Newcastle United side.
Yanga-Mbiwa dropped down to the bench to accommodate Mathieu Debuchy against West Bromwich Albion on Saturday.
The defender had played well in the Premier League wins against Norwich City, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea.
But United manager Pardew felt Debuchy – who served a one-match ban for accumulating five bookings against Norwich – had to come in for versatile Yanga-Mbiwa as he is a natural right-back.
And Pardew – whose side won 2-1 thanks to goals from Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran – admitted it was still the “most disappointing” call he has had to make all season.
“To leave out Mapou was probably the most disappointing decision I’ve made all season,” Pardew said.
“It really hurt me. He’s done nothing wrong, yet he finds himself on the bench.
“Probably the most disappointed player, and the one I feel for the most, was Mapou. It was tough to look that guy in the eye.”
Yanga-Mbiwa was dropped after a difficult first-half at Everton in September – and the 24-year-old was also sent off against Liverpool – but he returned to Pardew’s Premier League starting XI against Chelsea early last month.
And Yanga-Mbiwa – and Newcastle – haven’t looked back.
“When he came out of the team, I put him back in and he did brilliantly,” said Pardew.
“It’s difficult at the minute to put him in front of Willo (Mike Williamson) and Colo (Fabricio Coloccini).
“That’s his natural position. Mathieu’s a natural right back. It was a tough decision.”
An indication of the strength of Pardew’s defensive options is the fact that fit-again Steven Taylor can’t even make the bench.
“It’s unlucky for Steven Taylor,” added Pardew. “He didn’t even make the bench.
“We have got a strength in depth that we didn’t have even when we finished fifth two years ago.”