HATEM Ben Arfa’s been largely out of sight during Newcastle United’s winning streak – but he’s not out of Alan Pardew’s mind.
The forward has made just one brief cameo appearance off the bench in the last three games.
And Ben Arfa is likely to again be among the substitutes for Saturday’s home game against West Bromwich Albion.
But United manager Pardew believes Ben Arfa is “sharp” and ready to be called upon at any time.
The 26-year-old – who put in match-winning performances against Aston Villa and Fulham earlier this season – came off the bench late in last weekend’s 2-1 win over Norwich City.
Newcastle were on the back foot when he was sent on, and Pardew felt Ben Arfa’s dynamism going forward helped relieve the pressure on his defence.
“Hatem coming on after they scored switched the agenda back to us, I felt,” Pardew told the Gazette.
“That’s what we can do. You dare not leave him alone.
“He had a nice cameo, and he looked sharp.”
The form of Yoan Gouffran and Shola Ameobi has kept Ben Arfa out of the starting XI, and Pardew could again name an unchanged forward line for the West Brom game, which will be refereed by Phil Dowd.
The Staffordshire official previously took charge of the goalless draw against West Ham United in August.
Meanwhile, Monday’s Under-21 Premier League game against Chelsea will be staged at St James’s Park (1pm kick-off) rather than Whitley Park. Newcastle are 16th in the table with nine games played, while Chelsea are fifth.
Admission will be £3 for adults and £1 for concessions. Season-ticket holders and club members will be admitted free of charge.
* West Brom’s Shane Long is confident his contract situation will sort itself out – but admitted there has not yet been any progress.
Long’s deal at The Hawthorns runs out at the end of the season, though the club has an option to extend it by another year.
The striker came close to joining Hull in the summer, and the likes of Stoke and Newcastle – along with the Tigers – have been linked with a move for him in January.
But he said: “I’m settled in Birmingham, so I’m enjoying my time at West Brom, and hopefully the rest will take care of itself.
“There are no developments yet, but there’s plenty of time left on my contract. I’m sure the club will think about what’s best for them and me.”