ALAN Pardew is confident Leon Best will have recovered from the ankle injury which ruled him out of international duty this weekend to return to an attack which has become reliant on his goals.
Best has been the only player to emerge from the shadow of Andy Carroll’s controversial departure with any conviction and his absence at Stoke City last weekend was badly felt.
The striker did not help matters after that demoralising defeat by breaking a club curfew before the game, spending his time back on Tyneside on Friday night with an ankle injury at a Newcastle nightclub with fellow absentee Stephen Ireland. That disciplinary matter has been dealt with by manager Alan Pardew and the Newcastle boss will be more interested in whether Best does his apologising on the pitch than statements of contrition.
He said: “We think Leon will be okay for the weekend, he’s had an injection and it’s just a case of letting it settle down. I think the international games were a bit too soon, but we’re fairly confident he will fine for Wolves. It’s an important game for us.
“We missed him at Stoke, you could see that in our attacking play at times. We had periods were we put them under pressure and looked the better side, even if the final scoreline does not reflect that, but we didn’t really trouble their goalkeeper enough.
“Leon has been getting the goals for us recently and he’s been an important player.
“He gives us something in and around the area that perhaps we didn’t have at Stoke.
“He has responded well to the challenge he’s been given.”
Despite failing to score in his first five months on Tyneside last season following a January transfer window move from Coventry City, Best has prospered in the absence of Carroll.
The 24-year-old was asked to go out on loan by former Newcastle boss Chris Hughton after missing the start of the season with an ankle injury and appeared to be on his way out after just 12 months as St James’ Park.
But a plea to Pardew to give him a chance was rewarded with a hat-trick on his first start in the Premier League against West Ham and he has followed that up with another three goals to take at least some of the slack left by the sale of Carroll. Pardew added: “Leon can still get better and he knows that, there are areas of his game he needs to work on, but he does give us a threat. He has grown in confidence during this run in the side and the goals have helped.
“He has proven he can score goals in the Premier League and we need that to continue.”
Pardew’s men have allowed themselves to be dragged back into the relegation mix with a run of just one win in their last night league games and desperately need three points at home to Wolves on Saturday to give themselves some breathing space again.
Although there are plenty of teams between them and the drop zone, a cushion of only four points is not the sort of insurance policy they want with eight games left to play.
And, having not been in any real relegation danger all season, Pardew hopes they can put an end to their slump in form with a timely performance and result against one of the sides below them in the table.
He said: “We can’t get ourselves down about the Stoke game because we’ve got to make sure that the character and the fight in the dressing room comes through now in these last eight games.
“I think we’ve got enough in there to do that, but we’ve got to make sure we do it quickly. We don’t want to get ourselves in that dogfight with three or four games left to go.
“So in the next four games we need to get those two results that will see us home. We smarted about the Stoke game for a couple of days and look forward to the next home game, hopefully with a full house and get that win that we want.”