Newcastle boss Alan Pardew wants to retain Alan Smith despite rumours he could return to former club Leeds.
The 30-year-old has not had many opportunities in the first team this season, with the likes of Kevin Nolan, Joey Barton and new signing Cheik Tiote being preferred in the centre of midfield.
Smith has made just six starts this season, often having to settle for a place on the substitutes bench, but with the player commanding one of the highest salaries at the club, owner Mike Ashley may be willing to sell.
It is understood that Leeds, who are challenging for promotion in the Championship, are considering making a loan offer this month to bring Smith back to his hometown, where he remains a popular figure at Elland Road.
Smith came through the academy with the Yorkshire outfit and was a key part of the side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League under David O'Leary in 2001, before moving to rivals Manchester United in 2004.
Pardew however insisted that Smith had a role to play at the club, and was keen to keep him on board due to his experience at the highest level.
"Alan's been injured, and wasn't involved on the bench against West Ham. But he will be in and around for the FA Cup tie at Stevenage," Pardew told the Northern Echo.
"He's an important person in this group, he's a good character around the dressing room. He's strong and he knows these sort of games, so he'll definitely be in the dressing room come what may.
"I like Alan. He's got 18 months to run here and I'm sure he will want to see those 18 months out.
"He's had to change his game with injuries and the age he's at, but that doesn't mean to say he can't play a more forward role.
"I just said to him I'll use him where I think we might benefit from him.
"I think it's got him excited.
"I think he wants to get up front now and get a hat-trick if he's got one in the locker somewhere. I haven't seen that on the training ground yet though!"