Newcastle Utd boss puts faith in Ben Arfa’s fitness

KEY MAN ... Hatem Ben Arfa, right.
KEY MAN ... Hatem Ben Arfa, right.

ALAN Pardew’s hoping Hatem Ben Arfa’s got the legs to carry Newcastle United over the Premier League finish line.

The injury-hit forward started his first domestic game since December against West Ham United at Upon Park on Saturday.

And Ben Arfa – who has been plagued by a hamstring problem since November – was lively in a first half dominated by relegation-threatened Newcastle.

But the 26-year-old faded after the break in the goalless draw, and Pardew – whose side take on Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road on Sunday in their penultimate game of the season – needs him to last 90 minutes.

“We started with Hatem, knowing he didn’t have 90 minutes in him,” Pardew said.

“His conditioning has kept him out of the side.

“He was a real threat, especially in the first half, but he tired in the second half.”

Pardew’s hopeful Ben Arfa, and French countryman Yohan Cabaye, will offer more going forward at Loftus Road after another week’s work on the training pitch.

Newcastle – 16th in the league – need to win to ease their relegation fears.

“Hopefully, Cabaye and our flair players will probably have a bit more in their lockers, especially Hatem after a week’s work,” he added.

“He didn’t pull the hamstring. He’s OK. He made a difference at times. He was the difference between the two sides in the first half

“He had a little bit of quality. It’s a shame we couldn’t get the goal.”

Last week Ben Arfa reiterated his commitment to the cause after denying he wore a Paris Saint-Germain shirt to a Tyneside gym.

The former Olympique Marseille player also insisted there was no dressing-room unrest behind the scenes.

“We’re in this to fight on the pitch,” he said. “It’s a relegation battle, whether you’re English, French, African or from anywhere.

“Everybody is together. We’re all for this club, and I’m friends with every player. Everybody knows the situation we are in, nobody has any doubts.”