I remember being a poor young kid and not knowing what to do. The times when it felt impossible to come to conclusions, when everyone told you what you needed to do but you didn’t have it in your head to understand their words.

In football nowadays we have come to expect…but expect what?

newcastle fansWell, the other day I said I wanted to expect a 7th place finish but actually expect relegation.

Expect our managers to win games – yes.

Expect our owner to spend money – yes.

Expect our club to try to win cups – yes.

Deeper, we expect players to love their clubs.

We expect players to try and to flourish and to kiss the badge. We love it when they do, and they know we love it. They put their lips to the stitching and we all go nuts.

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This is wonderful and this is exactly what football is. Even deeper though, we expect players, as we do in life, to grow into mature and disciplined workers, whatever the specifics of their talents.

Whatever happened to Hatem Ben Arfa?

Yes, we’ve all been asking it. Remember against Blackburn in the FA Cup. Against Bolton? Against such-and-such and this-and-that.

He was, and remains, an incredible footballer. But that is not what works anymore. HBA is being (has been?) swallowed up by the madness of this global football machine. Still, of course, a very young man, who had our city on his shoulders. Who never asked to bear the sole responsibility of entertainment for our club, but who nevertheless took on the burden, unsupported by his company.

He went both ways. One moment he did something impossible; next moment he did something stupid. The thing Pardew et al cried about him was that he had this amazing talent but was preposterous in his behaviour. Irrational, delusional, crazy, inscrutable. Yes, I imagine so. He was that unfortunate case in the modern game. He was a footballer who was so obviously a human being.

He got lost somewhere along the line.

Perhaps he didn’t understand what was expected of him? Perhaps, actually, he didn’t enjoy the pressure that he was under? Perhaps was stuck in a way of life that he couldn’t ultimately excel in? Perhaps he didn’t like his job?

I know, this is all a bit weird. But you only have to look at HBA’s interview after the match. There is a delicacy about his manner. He has a tiny voice. He doesn’t look at the camera. He is happy when he has scored and played well. He is baffled by the interview. He always mentions the fans (and not in the way that many players mention the fans). HBA meant it. There’s no way of verifying that for us (we’re fans) – but I’m sure he meant it. I know he felt it when he kissed his badge.

So how should we feel about Hatem Ben Arfa?

In my eyes, he was one of the most beautiful and understandable symbols in our club’s recent history. He represented us. Each week, he tried to be amazing.

He woke up and went to so cold Benton and tried to blaze. He walked, headphoned, into St James’ Park each week and tried to make a show. This young man stepped up and in the end he failed.

But, God, he was good.

God, he was fun.

God, he was frustrating.

God, he was loved.

I am close to saying that however much he didn’t get right, Hatem Ben Arfa should still be playing in the Black and White.

Do you know what I mean?

  • radgiegadgie

    He had a croissant too many

  • vbhgft

    I have read some drivel on this site over the last few years, but this nauseating article takes the biscuit. It practically made me want to throw up.

  • nufcslf

    Such a crying shame to have the skill he had and not be able to find a home because the football brain was know where to be found. Every football team in the world would be very lucky to have a well behaved and dedicated HBA in it. Never quite happens that way, it seems.

  • MilitantGeordie

    No i don’t agree with this at all. Like alot of Newcastle fans you’ve been blinded by the occasional flash of genius. When he first arrived we all went ‘ wow this guy is the real deal’ and we pinned our hopes on this exciting young player. Then over time the reality began to kick in for some sections of the fans, while the other people continued to believe he was the messiah. To some fans saying Ben Arfa isn’t as good as you think was concidered sacrilege despite more and more games going by when he produced absolutely nothing. 13 goals from 76 games is hardly something to shout about. He could say he loves the club and kiss the badge all day but he disrespected the club and the fans by not applying himself or bothering to keep fit. Time for a reality check… Ben Arfa is not the world class superstar that some of the fans seem to still think and he certainly didn’t love the club or the fans as much as you want to believe he did. If he really did he would have stayed super fit, worked hard in training and produced much more on the pitch. Sure he scored a few belters but how many times did he fall on his arse while trying a fancy dribble? how many times was he stood hands on hips watching the defender take the ball away from him?  To sum him up… wasted talent. Now it’s time to move on.

  • No Brainer

    HBA was abject Bolton Blackburn ‘such and such this and that’ only existed in folklore, Haidara and Ameobi beat 2 or 3 players regularly and we don’t laud over them. WHY?  He flattered to deceive its as simple as that he didn’t have the world at his feet, I’m now convinced he was simply not good enough.

    All football fans are entitled exactly the same 90 minutes of football that’s all. If they don’t like it they can go on a website and write about how they are not going back as they don’t like it.

  • SimonM68

    The other way to look at it is how annoying he was because he has amazingly rare talent that people would kill for, but he simply refuses to apply himself and do the ‘easy’ stuff – the chasing back, the closing down, the keeping his trap shut.  It’s beneath him. That’s the tragedy of his character – lack of application. Add the graft in and he’d have been fantastic. As it is he’s wasted his talent.

  • Toonbadger

    “What are Newcastle fans entitled to expect?”
    We are entitled to expect everything.
    What we will get is NOTHING
    The club is at the lowest ebb of Fat micks reign, I wish he would just sell up and take a long walk off a short pier(and I cleaned that one up a bit)