Hatem Ben Arfa declared himself fit for the start of Newcastle United’s season – and set his sights on a crack at the Premier League title.
Ben Arfa made his seasonal debut in last night’s 5-1 win over Hartlepool United.
The 25-year-old is playing catch-up with his fitness after reporting back for pre-season training later than his team-mates.
However, he was lively after coming off the bench for the second half at Victoria Park, where Sylvain Marveaux (2), Shola Ameobi, Haris Vuckic and Gabriel Obertan found the net.
And he’s confident he’ll be fit enough to be involved in the season-opener against Tottenham Hotspur at St James’s Park on August 18.
“It is up to the manager and the fitness coaches – they’ll make the decision,” said Ben Arfa, who was given an extra few weeks off after his involvement in France’s Euro 2012 campaign.
“But I’m ready to be on the pitch or the bench – no problem. I’ll do what the manager says to me.
“It’s nice to be back on the pitch, and I’m happy I played 45 minutes. I feel very good. I will step things up.
“I stayed in Europe for one month, and even though I was on holiday, I played football with my friends. Now I feel good, but I go step by step. Hopefully, I can be ready quickly.
“The most important thing was to be on the pitch and feel the sensation again. You just want to get back to that feeling, feeling good on the pitch.
“You want to feel good with the ball and with your team-mates.”
Ben Arfa – who hit form late last season to help the club to a fifth-placed finish in the league – has been linked with a summer move to Arsenal, but the talented forward insists he’s happy at Newcastle.
“I very happy to stay here,” he said.
“I’m happy to be back at Newcastle again – I love this club and the supporters.
“I love them, and they like me. It is very good for me to see the fans here.”
Ben Arfa’s also confident United can build on last season’s achievements, and even challenge for the title, as Pardew is hopeful of keeping his key players at the club.
“All the players have stayed here,” added Ben Arfa. “I think we have to have confidence, as we have very good players.
“Maybe if we feel very good we can finish between fourth and first. Why not? Why can we not say we could be champions? Anything is possible.
“We can challenge for it. We have good players, a good stadium and great supporters. We have to have confidence. Personally, I believe we can do what I say.”