NEWCASTLE United boss Alan Pardew has warned that his recruitment drive is likely to go right down to the wire – but he remains confident of adding a couple of new faces to his stretched squad.
With the January transfer market offering precious little value for money at the moment, United are biding their time as they look to add midfield reinforcements.
The club continue to talk to Aston Villa about Stephen Ireland but are not willing to do business at the terms quoted to them last week, believing a better deal may be struck as the deadline draws near.
Indeed the major transfer bulletin from St James’ Park over the past 48 hours has been United’s decision to dismiss a derisory £1.5million bid from Birmingham City for Shola Ameobi.
While that may cause frustration for some United fans, Pardew is insistent that the club need to tread carefully.
Speaking from the club’s training camp in Portugal, Pardew confirmed that United were still hoping to bring in two players before Monday’s deadline – but emphasised that nothing is imminent.
“We are still just looking at making offers and making calls,” he said.
“There will be some activity probably in the last few days of the window and I hope we will be part of that.
“As much as we want a player – and we actually want two with Wayne (Routledge) going – it has to be right. We will not rush into anything.
“That is the most important thing, and we are still looking at our squad as well.
“Andy (Carroll) hopefully won’t be too long and Cheik (Tiote) will be coming back soon so that will give us a big boost.”
United also hope to have Hatem Ben Arfa back in action before spring – and will be boosted by news from France that the winger is “flying” in his bid to recover from a double leg break.
Ben Arfa is back at the Clairefontaine rehab centre in France following a trip to Dubai, and continues to make excellent progress.
He is working six hours a day under the supervision of Paris SG doctor Eric Roland and told the French press yesterday he was making “significant” progress.
Indeed, recent cardio tests revealed the former Marseille midfielder is in better condition than he was when he signed for Newcastle.
“I saw him last week and Hatem is absolutely flying,” his agent Simon Stainrod told The Journal.
“He’s been away to Dubai for a bit of warm weather training and now he’s back in France and training really, really hard.
“He’s really got the bit between his teeth and is making good progress. There are no miracles with an injury like his and he knows it is hard work that he needs to do – but he’s as fit as a fiddle.”
The next big hurdle for Ben Arfa as he attempts to return to Premier League action is “impact” work – jumping and landing on his healing leg. That will be key if he wants to return to full training in the next six weeks.
“Mid-February might be a bit optimistic but the way he is going about his business at the moment, it’s not unrealistic or out of the question,” Stainrod added.
A permanent switch from Marseille was sealed a fortnight ago and that has increased Ben Arfa’s eagerness to return.
“The permanent move is good for Hatem, it’s good for the fans and hopefully it’s good for the club,” Stainrod said.
“Hatem is just grateful to Alan Pardew, he’s grateful to Derek Llambias and he’s grateful to Mike Ashley.
“I think it lays a marker down and now Hatem is desperate to get back playing and pulling on that black and white shirt again.
“He told me that his goal is to become one of the best players in the world in a Newcastle shirt.”