HATEM Ben Arfa’s Premier League comeback brought the house down at St James’s Park.
Ben Arfa came off the bench in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers almost a year to the day since his last appearance at the stadium.
The forward replaced Demba Ba – who opened his account with a memorable hat-trick – for the last 16 minutes.
Ben Arfa suffered a horrific leg break at Manchester City last October, and damaged ankle ligaments in pre-season.
And the 24-year-old was given a rapturous reception as he ran on to the pitch, while Ba was also given a standing ovation.
Ben Arfa – who started last week’s Carling Cup win over Nottingham Forest – is still short of match fitness after his long spell on the sidelines.
But manager Alan Pardew was heartened by his performance, as he was with his contribution at the City Ground, where Peter Lovenkrands netted twice.
“Really, I should have brought Peter on because of his performance in the week,” Pardew told SportMail.
“But I knew the crowd would give Ben Arfa a great reception.
“I think he deserved that in terms of the injuries he’s had and the time he’s had off the pitch.
“It was a great day for him. He’s showed in flashes his brilliance. He ain’t quite there yet, but when he does, he’s going to threaten the two (Ba and Leon Best) that have the jerseys at the minute.
“We have Shola (Ameobi), who missed out. We have a lot of good, attacking talent.”
FULL story in Monday’s Mail ...