Playing for Newcastle United is a passion for Hatem Ben Arfa

LOVES FOOTBALL:  Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa (left) celebrates scoring his against Crystal Palace
LOVES FOOTBALL: Newcastle United's Hatem Ben Arfa (left) celebrates scoring his against Crystal Palace

HATEM Ben Arfa says playing for Newcastle United isn’t a job to him – it’s a passion!

Ben Arfa is hoping for a prosperous New Year at St James’s Park.

The forward, hoping to start this afternoon’s game against West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns, has long been a fans’ favourite at Newcastle.

And the 26-year-old insists he enjoys every minute he spends on the pitch representing the club, which is again challenging for a European place.

“Every minute I am on the pitch, I enjoy,” Ben Arfa told SportMail.

“Football is my job, of course, but as well it is my passion.

“And when I am on the pitch, I try to take pleasure. It’s better to take pleasure from your job, which is what I try to do.”

Ben Arfa’s form in the second half of the 2011-12 season was a key factor in Newcastle’s fifth-placed finish in the Premier League.

And the France international, who made his first start in almost two months in the club’s Boxing Day win over Stoke City, is hopeful he and his team-mates can replicate that achievement.

However, if United are to maintain their challenge near the top of the league, the dressing room must not lose their “focus”.

“Of course it is possible, but we have to give all our energy in every game,” said Ben Arfa, who has shown tantalising glimpses of his talent in recent weeks.

“We can drop quickly, as well, if we lose three games. We have to be focused.

“We have to be professional in every game to achieve something at the end of the season.”

Ben Arfa has scored three goals so far this season, with his last strike coming from the penalty spot at Selhurst Park in the 3-0 win over Crystal Palace last month.

– MILES STARFORTH