Expectations were raised over an end of season return to match fitness for Ben Arfa but unfortunately that never materialised. In truth I never really expected it to materialise either and always preferred the idea of holding him back a bit and giving him the extra time to recover, but some people wanted to see him play right away and spat the dummy when he wasn’t returned, shiny and good as new on the date stated by Pardew.
It turns out that talk of that late season return was nothing more than a morale booster for Ben Arfa according to Pardew.
“I know we made noises that he might play in those last three games but realistically, I never gave him a chance,” Pardew told the Sunday Sun. “I was trying to keep the boy’s head up to be honest. I don’t want him to see negative press so I said he might play in those three games.”
“I thought I was doing the right thing for Hatem, so that he genuinely felt he had a chance because he was quite low about his training, his workrate and everything. Once he knew he wasn’t going to make the games he probably accepted that and now he is aiming to be ready for July 4.”
Now I don’t want this to turn into an article purely on Ben Arfa, but I like what Pardew did there with the Frenchman. He’s been out a long time and if there was no end in sight it would be easy to let your head drop, so Pardew gave him an end, something to aim for, and the result was that his spirits picked up. Some will say it was just Pardew lying again, but I would counter that and say that it is good man management.
It’s not the first time that Pardew has managed to talk a good game into a player either – just look at Steven Taylor as a prime example of that!
People laughed when Pards mentioned Taylor for England, in fact I think I cringed a little bit, but it’s hard to argue with the results that those kind words have gained. Taylor finished the season by scoring in the final three games and was the stand-out performer in two of them for me, and that is coming from someone who berates Taylor on a fairly frequent basis.
Leon Best is another player who Pardew instilled belief into. Granted Best probably wanted to prove a few doubters wrong himself, but it was the manager who gave him the nod instead of sticking with the tried and relatively tested Shola Ameobi. The result – six goals in ten league games.
I’ve said it before and I maintain my belief that Pardew is of a similar mould to Kevin Keegan in the sense that he knows what buttons to press to get the best out of certain players. He has the key to unlock hidden potential, and if he can keep doing that it’s fine by me as it will benefit Newcastle in the long run.
Keep it up Alan! « Cabaye done! Gervinho on the brink. | No way back for Barton? »