ALAN Pardew has challenged his pack of strikers to prove him wrong – as he predicts more to come from Demba Ba and Leon Best.
The United boss spent most of the summer hammering home the point to all and sundry that Newcastle needed a proven hitman to shoulder the Premier League goalscoring burden – but having seen the board’s efforts come to nothing, he is now concentrating on the strikers he has got.
Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best have proved reliable to Pardew in the past, and he will send them out again during the winter months with the aim of securing their own role in his plans beyond January.
There is also an expectation that Demba Ba will step up following the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which the striker was fasting.
Having seen Best step up and score twice against Fulham, he knows that there are goals to be squeezed out of a forward line that managed to score 22 goals for Newcastle between them last year.
Ba’s seven goals for West Ham following a January switch from Hoffenheim should also be taken into account.
Pardew said: “There are some roles up for grabs here. When Shola has played for me, he has done terrific, and the same is true of Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best.
“So between the three of them, there is a lot of competition. And Ba is coming in as well. When you start saying their names and what they have done for me, they’ve all done very well.
“I’ve got to make sure that hunger stays there and that someone in that group gets us the goals we’re going to need.”
Ba has struggled for sharpness since his summer move from West Ham but Pardew feels that brighter days are over the horizon for the Senegal striker.
Not much has been made of Ba’s fasting, which is something that Pardew was reticent to discuss in public even if he felt it might have had an effect on his summer signing.
“It’s not that I haven’t been prepared to talk about anything, I just feel that some issues are personal and that’s a religious thing they have to go through,” he said. “As far as their performance levels are concerned, it is going to have some impact, there’s no doubt about it, but they’re through that now.
“And, especially with a striker like Demba is, that sharpness is very, very important and I think he’s lacked that a little bit.
“Once he gets that back and it won’t take him long, he’s going to be a very good player for us.”
The fall-out from United’s failure to land a striker continues to be felt, with the Newcastle board agreeing to answer 14 pertinent questions set by our sister title, the Chronicle.
Those answers will be published today as United open up a new front of communication that will prompt hopes that future dialogue will be forthcoming.
Such black and white optimism has frequently been dashed but at least it is a sign that the board are acknowledging the concerns generated among supporters by the failure to re-invest the £35m Andy Carroll windfall on a new forward.
In the meantime it is up to Pardew to recapture the momentum lost by the transfer window failings.
To that extent he will look to the returning Hatem Ben Arfa (pictured left) to excite supporters – with Pardew already sounding upbeat noises on the potential for the France international to make an immediate impact.
The United boss was considering deploying Ben Arfa in a deep-lying ‘second striker’ role before the sickening pre-season injury suffered in the States, and there is every chance that he will reprise that when he returns in mid-September.
Pardew said: “Ben Arfa is going to come into contention for this team, probably towards the end of September. We need to make sure he is right when he comes back.”