With Newcastle racking up just one point from the first six available in the Premier League and yet to find the net in the top-flight this term, it’s little wonder that several hundred Magpies fans turned up on Bank Holiday Monday to see the reserves in action against Reading.
After all, the game offered an opportunity for many Toon fans to not only see talented youngsters like Adam Armstrong in action but also arguably the most mercurial talent currently on the books at St James’ Park: Hatem Ben Arfa.
Relegated to the reserves after a dressing room bust-up with Alan Pardew at the back-end of last season that reportedly saw the pair come to blows, the Magpies manager has made it clear that the 27-year-old has no future at the club, having stripped him of the no.10 shirt and made him train away from the first-team.
But, as the crowd of over 400 Magpies fans in attendance at Whitley Park earlier this week can attest, Ben Arfa remains a talented attacking midfielder who is capable of creating the kind of chances and goals Newcastle need to kick-start their season.
At present, Ben Arfa also represents the club’s best option on the wing, with Rolando Aarons still some way from being the finished article and Remy Cabella still adapting to the demands of the Premier League.
There will be some that will back Pardew’s no-way-back stance, but as other managers have proven in the past, sometimes it can pay dividends to put egos aside and focus on the football.
The most obvious example of this came at Manchester City, with Roberto Mancini ultimately welcoming Carlos Tevez back into the fold after the pair had clashed during a Champions League tie with Bayern Munich in which the Argentine reportedly refused to come on as a substitute.
In the end Tevez played a part in City’s title success, setting up Samir Nasri for a crucial winner in a 2-1 win over Chelsea and scoring a further four goals in the Premier League.
The Argentine may have departed the club for Juventus, but the decision to rebuild his relationship with Mancini ultimately proved beneficial to both parties, with the Sky Blues winning the title and Tevez regaining enough fitness and form over the next year or so to earn a move away.
Ben Arfa has already made it clear he has no intention of leaving Newcastle too, perhaps due to a lack of suitors, but could be willing to issue an apology to Pardew should it mean he makes a return to first-team action.
For now though the ball remains in Pardew’s court but, lose to at home to Crystal Palace, and the decision could be taken out of his hands.
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