KEITH Downing believes Nicolas Anelka still has a major part to play this season.
A niggling groin injury and illness have kept the 34-year-old sidelined for the last two months.
But he is now available to face Tottenham today (ko 3pm) - heading to White Hart Lane as a former star of their nearest rivals, Arsenal.
And caretaker boss Downing is glad he can call on his experience.
“He’s got great talent and trains every day, " he said.
“There is a misconception of Nicolas.
“Because he’s a quiet man people class him as a little bit moody.
“He’s a real deep-thinking man, speaks well, and speaks well to youngsters.
“He imparts his knowledge on [Saido] Berahino.
“He’s good around the youngsters and Saido is influenced and wants to listen.
“He’s a top player and knows his stuff.
“He had a cracking pre-season and was one of our top players in pre-season.
“It’s just over the last couple of months he’s not been involved.
“I’ve spoken to Nico twice now and he’s very much keen to be part of it and do well for the football club.
“I still think he’s got a major part to play here.
“It will obviously depend on the new guy who comes in.
“But for me he has been nothing but supportive and tries to help the group.
“We have to look after him and manage him.
“I still think he has a big part to play.
“How can you not keep him involved mate? He's a talent.
“He’s kept fit and trained – he’s been on it every day.
“He’s going to be part of the squad that goes down to London.”