Joey Barton trained with the Newcastle United first team for the second day running yet it is far from certain that the midfielder will start Saturday's Premier League opener against Arsenal at St James' Park.
Barton was handed a free transfer and placed in temporary training ground quarantine last week after criticising the club on Twitter. Alan Pardew is likely to delay his team selection as he endeavours to assess Barton's mental state and the nature of his interaction with team-mates, some of whom were left dismayed when he turned on them following a recent friendly defeat at Leeds.
Although he was one of Newcastle's best players last season Pardew may be tempted to initially place Barton on the bench and hand his customary right wing slot to Gabriel Obertan, who completed his £3m move from Manchester United.
It promises to be an extremely tricky decision as, should Barton not play and Newcastle lose, Pardew could well find himself shouldering considerable blame. The pair are expected to have a private chat in the 24 hours before the Arsenal game when Barton must convince Pardew he is prepared to fully buy into his managerial methods and accept Newcastle's team ethic. The odds are that, despite enduring boardroom reservations, a rapprochement will be reached, especially as Stoke City are the only side understood to be displaying a real interest in signing Barton, who earns almost £70,000 a week at St James' Park and has a year outstanding on his contract.
Pardew, who has urged his board to free up the funds to allow him to sign a new striker, is considering a £7m move for PSV Eindhoven's Dutch international left back Erik Pieters. He would be a straight replacement for Jose Enrique who remains anxious to depart Newcastle.
Obertan is simply delighted to be on Tyneside after making only 14 Premier League appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson's side since arriving at Old Trafford from Bordeaux two years ago.
"It's difficult in Manchester when you don't play as much as you want," he said. "There were a lot of very good players at United and there was a lot of pressure. It was difficult but I still have good memories. Now I want to show Newcastle fans what I can do. Every time I will play I will have a point to prove."
Another Newcastle midfielder, Cheik Tioté, yesterday returned to Newcastle after the Ivorian spent 11 days in Ghana waiting to be issued with a new UK visa by Ivory Coast's temporarily Accra based British Embassy.
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