24 year-old Newcastle midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa has returned to training with the team on Tuesday for the first time since breaking his tibia and fibula on October 3 in a game with Manchester City. According to the NUFC Official Site, Ben Arfa warmed up with the squad before going off on his own to perform some running and ball work with the medical staff.
Ben Arfa also gave an interview with Canal Plus (The link is in French; I think it's the right interview. English quotes provided here were found on ESPN Soccernet) where he called for harsher penalties for tough tackles like the one from Nigel De Jong that incapacitated him, noting that he was forced to have a second surgery as a result of an infection in order to avoid losing his leg.
I do not really understand English. But in his text, he told me he did not intend to hurt me and he was sorry. I told him it was okay, it was football. Anyway, the problem is that there was not even fault. I think he can get away with anything if there are no sanctions. I do not want to come down on the referees, but we still have to protect players a little more so if he wants to tackle like this again he thinks twice. I needed a second operation because I had an infection. It was a big infection which could have been very dangerous. I was told that I could have had my leg cut off if they didn't operate on me very quickly.
While Ben Arfa's story is compelling, it will likely do very little to move the people who matter to action on this critical issue. Unfortunately, it will probably take a prominent footballer actually losing a limb to force change.
Follow the jump for more from Alan Pardew, including his plans for HBA's return to game action.
Meanwhile, Alan Pardew, who has yet to have Ben Arfa available for selection on his watch, is excited about the prospects of his return. He spoke with L'Equipe (Again, a French-language paper. I couldn't find a link this time. English quotes are from Sky Sports) about his plans for this year and next:
We rely on him, above all, for next season, but we won't rule out anything. If he can play one, two or three matches before the end of May, it would be fine both for us and him.
Next season? He will play a central role in our attacking line. I want to use him as a playmaker, a number 10, just behind one forward. I am convinced he is able to score between 10 and 15 goals a season."
We will think about how to protect him during matches. Our expectations are big but once again we will go slowly. The end to this season will allow us to see if he has not lost his acceleration quality.
- It looks like Pardew has learned his lesson from rushing Dan Gosling back from injury too soon. It would certainly be foolish to put any undue expectations on Ben Arfa, especially since the upside of a return this season is extremely limited.
- HBA was born to play the #10. I love where Pardew's head is at here. Of course, any formation run out in 2011-12 will be dependent on what kind of transfer window the team has, but as of now planning to slot Ben Arfa behind, say, Leon Best is a solid plan.