Hatem Ben Arfa 'meet and greet' session with Newcastle fans cancelled amid fears of a 'media circus'

The Frenchman's future at St James' Park looks far from stable

Exiled Newcastle United midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa has cancelled an informal ‘meet and greet’ with fans tonight at The Backpage, a sports memorabilia store close to St James’ Park.

The playmaker, who finds himself relegated to the reserves after returning for pre-season training overweight, was thought to want to keep fans on side during an ongoing rift with manager Alan Pardew, but has now apparently decided that the event was against his better judgment. 

The Backpage advertised the ‘meet and greet’ on its Facebook page just two days ago, and despite the short notice was expected to draw a large crowd on the same day that Newcastle are hosting an open training session. And it seems that this has halted the event’s go-ahead, as an official statement announced:  “When the ‘meet and greet’ was organised it wasn't known that Hatem was to be excluded from the SJP session. This has unfortunately turned the whole situation into a media circus which would do neither party any good whatsoever. Hatem apologises and is saddened that he is unable to meet his fans this time.”

Ben Arfa is understood to have criticised his manager’s tactics towards the end of last season as Newcastle suffered seven defeats in their final eight games, and has not made a first team appearance since the 4-0 loss at home to Manchester United back in April.

He has subsequently been left out of all of Newcastle’s first team squads, while Pardew has already signed two ostensible replacements in Remy Cabella and Siem De Jong. The latter has even been handed Ben Arfa’s number 10 shirt.   

Pardew’s seeming alacrity to part with the player he himself once compared to Lionel Messi, is a decision that has split opinion amongst fans. There are some who appreciate the manager’s tough stance on discipline, whilst others feel that more could be done to get the best of one of Newcastle’s brightest sparks.

Newcastle manager Alan Pardew signs a Newcastle fans' shirt on the pre-season tour in New Zealand Newcastle manager Alan Pardew signs a Newcastle fans' shirt on the pre-season tour in New Zealand  

This is not the first time Ben Arfa has gone AWOL though – in May, he offered interviews to several national newspapers without the club’s permission and was heavily fined.

Indeed, for Newcastle, the Frenchman’s situation must be seen as an irritating sub-plot in an otherwise successful summer which has seen several big name signings arrive through the door.

Ben Arfa has one year left to run on his current contract at St James’ Park and it widely believed that Newcastle would prefer to offload him during this transfer window than lose him on a free next June; but so far the club are yet to receive any formal bids.

Still, that Ben Arfa was handed the number 26 as opposed to no shirt number not all suggests that there might be some small chance of reprieve, but what The Backpage fiasco will do to this chance remains to be seen.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest in Sport
Sport
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

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy