ALAN Pardew is happy with Hatem Ben Arfa's progress as he continues to recover from a broken leg, but the Newcastle boss will resist the temptation to rush the winger back unnecessarily this season.
Ben Arfa broke his leg in last October's 2-1 defeat at Manchester City, and has spent most of the last five months receiving rehabilitative treatment in France.
He stepped up his programme at the Clairefontaine Academy this week, and is now running in 20-minute bursts.
He is expected to return to England before the end of the month to gradually ease his way back into some light contact work, a development that would move him a significant step closer to a first-team return.
However, while Newcastle have undoubtedly missed the 24-year-old's dribbling ability and vision, Pardew will not be risking his future well-being just to have him available for a handful of matches at the end of the season.
"If you listen to some of the reports coming out of France, he could be playing again next week," said the Newcastle boss. "But realistically I've always said with that kind of injury - when you have to get your confidence back and so on - I still think it'll the back end of April or start of May. If at all.
"In my mind, as the manager of the club, I haven't got him pencilled in for any game. If I get him back, it's a bonus for me.
"He's on constant attention at Clairefontaine, he seems to be enjoying the treatment and everything else. Our doctor travels over and makes sure. The facilities there are absolutely brilliant."
Ben Arfa has done the vast majority of his recuperating in France, although he was given compassionate leave to visit his family in Tunisia after the country was hit by a wave of civil unrest.
Some supporters have questioned the wisdom of keeping him so far away from Newcastle, given that he only moved to Tyneside six weeks before sustaining his injury.
Pardew has asked himself the same question, but concluded the pros of forcing his return to England would be outweighed by the cons.
"We've questioned that decision at times, whether to bring him back and have treatment here and get him embedded into the city a little bit more," he said. "But I think the personal issue he had with what happened in Tunisia with his family and him, as a person, we just think it's better that he stays there (in France).
"It's nothing to do with the French national team or anything like that - you have to take on board that he's a foreign player, newly arrived in the country and the injury happened so early for him, would you really want to be stuck here with a broken leg with people you don't really know?
"He's been brought up there, he knows the doctor and everything else. It's kind of a moral debate that me and the doctor have had - shall we bring him back?
"We just keep coming to the same decision - let's just leave him there, he seems to be progressing well. Other than being in the city and getting used to the restaurants and God knows what else, there's no other benefit for us at the moment."
Pardew is set for a busy weekend, as he will watch Newcastle's next opponents, Stoke City, on Saturday, before travelling to the continent to scout prospective summer signings on Sunday afternoon.
"I am going to a game abroad to watch a couple of players," he confirmed. "All our staff are out looking at players, because that is important. We have to make sure we bring in top players to this football club.
"It's that time of year when we are talking about pre-season, players for next year and making sure that we don't make any mistakes."