Hatem Ben Arfa interview: Newcastle outcast says - 'I want to help my team and I can't. It hurts a lot'

Sidelined player tells Martin Hardy of his frustration and sadness at being an outcast, unable to help while Newcastle’s season has collapsed

Hatem Ben Arfa was sat in his front room watching the television on Monday night. By the time he turned off, Newcastle had lost another game without scoring. There had been unrest in the away end at Arsenal, banners against the manager had been unfurled. The Frenchman’s name had been chanted.

As he sits overlooking the bridges on the river Tyne in a Quayside hotel, Ben Arfa insists there is no injury and attempts to talk in a placatory manner of his relationship with Alan Pardew, the manager who told the nation before the game that the player was fit but he was picking a team to win. That is not easy.

Ben Arfa spent last week training with the reserves, he reveals. He is uncertain whether he will be asked to play against Cardiff on Saturday, or indeed occupy his usual role when he has been involved, on the substitutes’ bench. The pressure has mounted on Pardew durinThg a six-game losing run, the first time Newcastle have achieved such an unwanted record in the league since 1987. He does not need a stadium singing the name of a player sat behind him who he no longer seems to trust. For Ben Arfa, there have been eight Premier League starts in seven months. There is frustration that he has become a spectator in Newcastle’s demise.

“I feel sad and frustrated, but not angry,” he says. “I want to help my team and I can’t. It hurts a lot. I want to take the ball and give the maximum for the team. When I see we are losing games 3-0 or 4-0, it is very hard for me and I’m on the bench. If I was involved on Saturday, I think I could make a difference. I would like to try.

“Every player needs confidence,” he adds. “Every player in the world needs confidence to show their best. It is hard to come in during games and it is very hard for the player if you’re substituted at half-time, like I was against Southampton. It hurt me. I had tried, it was very hard.

“It’s not easy because when you come on and we’re 2-0 down and everybody wants you to do something great. I think it’s better if you start the game and it’s 0-0. After that you can lift your game up. When I come on with 20 minutes or 30 minutes left I give my best and sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not good. But I give my best.

“Of course it hurts me [not playing] because I’m competitive. I want to play and I want to help my team. Of course, I want to play every game. That is not my decision. I train hard. I try to start but if I’m not starting, or on the bench, I have to respect the decision.

Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa is at a loss as to why Alan Pardew is not playing him (Getty) Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa is at a loss as to why Alan Pardew is not playing him (Getty)
“Yeah, it was very difficult [watching the Arsenal game]. I was at home watching on TV. It was hard because we have lost too many times, 3-0, 4-0, 3-0. It is hard when you love the supporters, it is hard to lose every time like that.”

Pardew had suggested Ben Arfa needed to earn the trust of both himself and his team-mates in explanation for his absence from a Newcastle side that have won just four of their last 19 games. There have been meetings. The player insists he does not want to leave. There was an argument after the Manchester United defeat at St James’, when Ben Arfa came on with Newcastle trailing by two goals and then lost by four.

“After the game against Manchester United we had an exchange of words, but that is it. It is common at any team where players and the manager want to win,” he adds.

“He told me I had to score more and get more assists for everybody’s confidence, the supporters, the players and him. I said OK, but I have to play. I have to have confidence to show everybody. If the manager doesn’t play me, he has his opinion. I respect that, but every player needs confidence.

“If the manager doesn’t pick me, he doesn’t pick me. I don’t have any problems with team-mates. All I know is that I want to train and I want to play and that’s it. I’m just here to play football. I can’t be the only reason for the problem. I can only do so much and I am not on the pitch.

“On the pitch I think I can offer my flair, my creativity offensively. I take initiative positively and I try every time to do something. I think I can give a lot for the club. I just want to play. I’m fit. I’m not injured. I’m ready to play.

“If the manager says to me he doesn’t believe in me for next season, I still want to stay, I want to stay but if the president [owner Mike Ashley] wants to sell me, I have to go then. I want to stay here even if the manager doesn’t believe in me, because I will show him I can play here.

“Of course my family and friends ask my why I’m not playing, but the people who are more surprised are the supporters here. They come up to me and ask me why I’m not playing and I say, ‘I don’t know.’ My dream is to be in the top four next season with Newcastle, to get into the Champions League or to win a cup. That is my dream.”

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) and Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint)
newsBloomsbury unveils new covers for JK Rowling's wizarding series
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star