Leon Best

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

Leon Best returned to full training on Friday and vowed to challenge Papiss Cisse, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa for a place in the starting XI over the next few weeks.

And the Republic of Ireland international revealed that he has wasted no time in ruffling the feathers of in-form Cisse - by teasing him about his fashion sense.

Best limped off with a knee injury after 14 minutes of February's win over Aston Villa, with Cisse coming on in his place and scoring a superb goal on his debut.

But after rejoining the rest of his team-mates on the club's Benton training pitches, he spoke exclusively to nufc.co.uk about the frustration of being out of action for so long and his joy at moving ever closer to pulling on the Newcastle shirt again.  

"My missus will tell you that I've been a bit miserable for the last nine weeks, but I'm like a kid being back at school after the holidays," he grinned.

"I'm delighted today. I loved it and I'm just buzzing to be back training. And I think that's going to help me, because I'm buzzing around and running around unnecessarily which is going to get me fitter again!

"But I just feel happy. It's nice to be back amongst it - and I'll be back on the banter.

"Cisse's trousers today," Best added mischievously, referring to a pair of three-quarter length pants sported by the Senegalese striker. "They were definitely 'short weekends' so I had to just get on him.

"He shouldn't be dressing like that with the stats he's got. He's got ten goals in nine games so he shouldn't be dressing like that.

"I'm just happy to be back with a smile on my face as well as the other lads'."

Best will be even more pleased, however, if he can chip in with a couple of goals between now and the end of the campaign as Newcastle chase a European place.

Alan Pardew's bold move to play three forwards has paid off in recent weeks, and the former Coventry frontman is keen to add to the manager's options once he is match fit.

However, the 25-year-old - who has four goals this term as well as several assists - knows he faces a real battle to get back into the team.

"Demba might feel down because he hasn't scored but it was the same for me when I was playing with him, and he's doing the same for Cisse," he explained. "He's working hard and creating chances. Sometimes when we're playing, they might be looking at Demba and Cisse's getting in.

"Hatem's playing well and we're not looking behind anymore - we're looking forward and trying to catch whoever's in front, which is a positive.

"And me coming back can add a bit of positive pressure and hopefully get everyone scoring even more goals.

"I'm training now so if everything goes well and I keep getting fitter, I'll be available for as soon as."