Hatem Ben Arfa

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

According to local legend, during the Napoleonic wars a monkey was once washed up on the coast of Hartlepool and hung by the townsfolk because they thought it was a Frenchman.

On Tuesday night, however, Newcastle United's Gallic contingent fared rather better than the unfortunate simian. Sylvain Marveaux scored twice, Gabriel Obertan once, Romain Amalfitano dazzled - and Hatem Ben Arfa made his first appearance for the club since May.

With its collection of factory chimneys and biting seaside wind, the Tees Valley town was not the most glamorous location for the Clamart-born playmaker to mark his return, but Ben Arfa lit up the grey, industrial sky above him.

He had been given extra time off after playing for his country in the European Championships, only returning to training on Tyneside last week, but the 25-year-old was introduced at half-time in the 5-1 win over Pools.

Within six minutes of his arrival he'd almost scored, bringing a fine save from Scott Flinders. Within eight, he'd set a goal up, running at the hosts' defence and seeing his pass fall to Haris Vuckic to loft home the Magpies' fourth.

There was other evidence to suggest that Ben Arfa is ready to continue where he left off in the second half of last season, too, and he was beaming from ear to ear when he spoke to nufc.co.uk outside the away dressing room at Victoria Park.

"It was nice to be back on the pitch," he said as he conducted the interview entirely (and eloquently) in English - another sign of how he has truly adapted to life in England over the last few months.

"I'm very happy that I played 45 minutes and I feel very good, and now I'm going to step it up to be ready quickly."

Despite not playing for Newcastle since last season's final game at Everton, the former Marseille man insisted that he has worked to maintain his fitness even during his summer break.

No monkey business, if you will.

"I was in the Euros and I've stopped for one month, but I ran on my holiday and I kept playing football with my friends," he explained.

"And now I feel good, but I'm going to take it step by step.

"It was most important to be on the pitch, to feel the sensation, to get back to feeling the pitch.

"When you play a game, it's most important to feel the sensation of the ball and with your team-mates."