Alan Pardew challenges Leon Best to prove he has Newcastle future

Newcastle boss Alan Pardew has challenged striker Leon Best to prove he has a long-term future on Tyneside.

The 24-year-old's career at St James' looked to have stalled after an injury-hit first 12 months with the club following his arrival from Coventry at the end of last year's January transfer window.

However, Andy Carroll's thigh injury and subsequent £35million departure to Liverpool handed him his chance, and he has not looked back since.

Best scored his sixth goal in 10 games in Saturday's 2-1 Barclays Premier League defeat by Everton and had a second ruled out for pushing as he further rewarded Pardew's faith in him.

The manager said: "I wouldn't say I have been surprised, but I am pleased for him because the feeling was that he was going to leave the club from a lot of people, including people within the club.

"He has answered a few critics in the short spell he has had.

"But of course, there are still another nine games to go and he needs to keep on where he is and make sure he is at the level at which he has been playing for the last few games, which has been terrific."

Best made 13 appearances, only six of them starts, under Chris Hughton last season, but did not get his first taste of action this term until he was introduced as a late substitute by Pardew in the 1-0 win at Wigan on January 2.

He opened his goalscoring account in style three days later when he started the game and scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 demolition of West Ham.

Best has been a fixture ever since, a run which saw him return to Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland squad last month, although he was forced to withdraw with a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, the club's medics were today continuing to assess the hamstring problem left-back Jose Enrique sustained during the Everton game.