NEWCASTLE UNITED midfielder Hatem Ben Arfa has stepped up his recovery from an ankle injury after taking part in his first training session yesterday.
He has been sidelined since July when he suffered an ankle injury during the Magpies' 0-0 draw with Sporting Kansas City on their pre-season tour of the States.
The Frenchman flew back to Tyneside for x-rays before returning to French football centre Clairfontaine to undergo treatment.
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Ben Arfa has since returned to Tyneside and yesterday took part in a light exercise session with physio Derek Wright at the club's Benton training ground to assess his fitness.
Magpies boss Alan Pardew had previously hoped to have the attacking midfielder back this month, but the club are keen not to hurry the 24-year-old with no return date penciled in yet.
Ben Arfa had only just returned to first-team action for the Tynesiders when he was stretchered off in America, having spent ten months on the sidelines recovering from the horrific double leg break he suffered in a tackle with Manchester City's Nigel de Jong last October.
Meanwhile, Carlisle United are keen to extend the loan of young Newcastle United defender James Tavernier.
The full-back, who can also play at centre-back, has been at Brunton Park since the beginning of the season and has started five games for the Cumbrians.
His initial loan is due to expire on September 13, but Carlisle boss Gregg Abbott has been impressed with the 19-year-old and is keen to extend his loan with first-choice right-back Frank Simek still recovering from injury.
The Magpies have plenty cover for the right-back slot with Danny Simpson, Ryan Taylor, James Perch and Davide Santon all ahead of Tavernier in the pecking order.
However, with Pardew short on central defensive options after Mike Williamson was ruled out for six weeks, the Magpies boss could decide to call Tavernier back.
Midfielder Michael Richardson has returned to the club following his month-long loan at Leyton Orient.
The 19-year-old started twice for the League One side and managed to get himself on the scoresheet once, before making a further two appearances from the substitutes bench.