Neil Cameron: Hatem Ben Arfa has played only a minor role in the highs and lows of this season

Neil Cameron believes Newcastle United's season won't be defined by the Hatem Ben Arfa blame game

Mark Runnacles/Getty Images Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United
Hatem Ben Arfa of Newcastle United

After the banners came the mocking songs.

One which caught the eye last week was a pastiche of the Jackson Five classic “Blame it on the Boogie.”

It’s not worth repeating line by line, but the essence of the rewritten ditty was no matter what had happened in a game, win lose or draw, Alan Pardew would always blame it on Ben Arfa.

Many believe Newcastle United’s manager has used this flawed if wonderfully-talented footballer as a scapegoat for everything which has gone wrong.

I don’t buy this. During the team’s best period this season, Hatem Ben Arfa was far from a fixture in the first team. More often than not, his role was that of a substitute.

While there is a strong argument Pardew should be getting the best out of the player, surely much of the responsibility needs to come from the player himself?

This is a topic of conversation which has been covered to death in recent months and yet it’s difficult to get away from it. Pardew and Ben Arfa had a heart-to-heart this week, although whether anything good comes from it remains to be seem.

Pardew said: “It’s like all players and all situations in that there are certain times when you talk to players and want more and players want more from you as manager.

“Those talks go on a daily basis with all players, not just Hatem.”

Asked whether Ben Arfa (left) still had a future at Newcastle United, Pardew added: “Yes. He’s still contracted here for two years.”

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement, but there you go.

My take is this saga is just a little part in the story of an entire season. Essentially, nothing much has gone right since January and the form of Ben Arfa is hardly a deciding factor, despite what some might claim. Wins, or lack thereof, are the reason why fans have taken to writing on bed sheets and re-working classic songs from the 1970s.

Four wins would be nice as this season ends. It would at least give something back to the supporters, who were asked yesterday by the manager to continue to support.

That was odd. St James’ Park is full every week. You do well to pick up a spare away ticket for almost every games. The people will be there. It’s time their football team gave them back a bit more.

Pardew said: “The fans are fair. Recently we haven’t been fair to them in our performances. I’m determined to bring back that harmony we had with them not so long ago. It was all good after the last-minute goal against Crystal Palace, but then we’ve gone on this run and the only way to get it back is a Newcastle performance, being on the front foot and taking the game to the opposition.

“We need to threaten the goal more than in recent home games. Stoke made it difficult for us, but this week I think we have players who can hopefully disrupt Swansea.

“I felt disappointed, I don’t want to see those banners from our fans.

“I’ve had three years here and really good days, but tough days as well.

“I think it has an impact, in the same way a positive stadium has an impact. However, I think we have enough in the dressing room to respond in the right manner. We have to stand up and be counted and put out a performance which has all the hallmarks of Newcastle United.”

There is some good news. Loic Remi and Mathieu Debuchy are back. Both have been badly missed. Nobody else scores goals other than Remy, while Debuchy brings a calmness to both defence and attack. Maybe it is over the last few matches we have realised just how good the right-back has been. Pardew said: “We’ve have three or four back on the training ground. Remy and Debuchy are back training, so we’re better on that front.

“That’s a big boost in terms of their experience at this level. It’s nice to see them back. With the World Cup not far around the corner, it’s important they get the time in now.”

Pardew needs a win on a personal level. He is right to say it’s been a season of ups and downs. His problem is the downs have felt more important. Unfair? Possibly. but who says life is fair? Pardew added: “It’s been difficult.

“I have to wear the defeats at this football club and it’s not comfortable. I want to win more than anybody. For the fans to have seen the games where we could have been better, we have to put that right.

“If you lose four on the trot as Newcastle manager, it’s difficult.

“We’re not playing with super confidence so its important they (the fans) give the team the great backing they always do. We need to put a good first-half display in because it goes hand in hand. We’ve had a season of ups and downs. We’ve had four wins in a row and four losses.

“We’ve had more Premier League wins that Southampton, but look at us lately and our record is not good at all. It’s been up and down. We just want to secure a positive result now and have some momentum moving in the right way.”

Swansea are the visitors tomorrow, a club who have given Newcastle a run on how to make the front and back pages. They sacked a successful manager and their players can’t stop fighting. Surely United will prevail this time.

Pardew said: “Hopefully, we’ll get a win and calm the situation down. It is a bit fraught. We are tense and we want to put it right. We have a stadium which should dictate proceedings for us, but we need to give the supporters something to shout about.

“I’m glad we’re in the top half and not the bottom half. We’ve had problems this year, but it’s that lack of consistency we want to put right.

“The history is heavy on us with what Sir Bobby Robson did in that great side.

“We have to live up to those expectations. Finances have moved against us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete and that’s what we want to do. The opportunity for investment is there in the summer but we have to get there first and we need wins.”

That they do.


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