Chris Hughton to tame wild man Ben Arfa

CHRIS Hughton is confident he will have no trouble taming Hatem Ben Arfa’s wild side as Newcastle United’s manager prepares to welcome his fourth summer signing to St James's Park.

Hatem Ben Arfa

CHRIS Hughton is confident he will have no trouble taming Hatem Ben Arfa’s wild side as Newcastle United’s manager prepares to welcome his fourth summer signing to St James's Park.

That could quickly become five as Tottenham Hotspur striker Robbie Keane is believed to be keen on a loan move to Newcastle after falling out of favour at White Hart Lane.

The Magpies have been involved in an intense game of cat and mouse with Marseille over the signing of the highly-rated 23-year-old all summer, but have now agreed a loan deal.

Ben Arfa completed a medical on Tyneside last night and is set to sign for Newcastle today.

The move will become permanent if the French international plays 25 games this season with Hughton revealing what he exoects Ben Arfa to bring to his side.

Although boasting a fiery reputation, the Newcastle boss has already shown he has the lightness of touch – as well as a deceptive toughness – to deal with the more colourful characters in the United dressing room.

Hughton, who confirmed all the signings made this summer were on his recommendation, said of Ben Arfa: “He’s an offensive player that can play in any one of three positions, either of the wide positions or off the front.

“He’s a young player, a wonderful talent and

a wonderful prospect. Can I handle him? The fact that there’s an interest from us is very much regarding the quality that he is as a player. The main concern of anybody coming into an environment here is the player is coming into a quite healthy environment with a squad showing a fair amount of confidence.

“We’d expect anyone coming into that to be very much part of that. He’s a player of a good age, and a good development age and that’s why there’s interest.

“There has been interest from other clubs, but you get used to those scenarios and you get used to being interested in a player and someone else comes in and it goes off elsewhere. That’s just part and parcel of it.”

With a possible deal for Keane (pictured below) also being discussed with Tottenham and the confirmation that CheikTiote has been granted a work permit to complete his move from FC Twente, Hughton’s patience in the transfer market is starting to pay off with just four days left until the close of the window.

Whether Newcastle are also looking for another left-back remains to be seen, although the lack of cover for Jose Enrique in that position is a worry.

Newcastle have asked Chelsea about the possibility of re-signing Patrick van Aanholt on loan after a successful stint in the black and white stripes last season, but they have not made much progress.

The sudden influx of new players has added to the feelgood factor generated by the sensational 6-0 thrashing of Aston Villa last weekend and gutsy 3-2 win over Accrington Stanley in the Carling Cup in midweek by a far younger and less experienced team.

But Hughton knows that feeling has to be maintained with a good result against Wolverhampton Wanderers today, as he warned they cannot afford to dwell on the dismantling of Villa.

He said: “You have to put that to bed, one thing I can guarantee is that we have a feelgood factor, albeit from a different group of players from Wednesday night.

“Strangely enough I was equally as pleased on Wednesday as I was on Sunday, probably because the dynamic was changed and we had three big contributions from the three senior players involved. We gained a lot from that.

“Last Sunday is firmly put to bed because we know the quality of the team we’re up against.

“We know it is tough to win away in the Premier League. It’s something we’re very conscious of. Our ability to stay in the division will be based on our home form, which at this moment’s very good.

“But I feel we’ll need to pick up a percentage of points away from home. All we can hope is the experience we gained on our travels last season will keep us in good stead for this season.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer