Ba just wants to have fun

The 26-year-old Senegal international has been a revelation since

his arrival on Tyneside, putting all talk of a suspect knee to one

side with 13 goals for the Magpies to take his tally since he

joined from West Ham in January to 20. His contribution for the

Magpies has come in his last 12 Premier League starts, and he has

quickly established himself as a crowd favourite. However, Ba,

whose double in midweek could not deny West Brom victory, insists

he arrived on Tyneside without any landmark in his mind. He said:

“I don’t really expect to score 10 or 15 or five or 20 goals – when

I first came I just wanted to play, to have fun on the pitch, to

show the whole club that the trust they put in me I was going to

give it back. “That’s what has happened. I just have fun when I

play, and think people see it on a Saturday or a Sunday.” Ba’s

impending departure for African Cup of Nations duty with Senegal

will leave manager Alan Pardew with a huge gap to plug. Indeed, the

Magpies are hoping to delay their star striker’s departure until

the last possible minute, with the manager hopeful of holding on to

him until after the home clash with QPR on January 15. Pardew’s

keenness to do so is understandable, with the club currently

entrenched in a six-game run without a victory which has seen them

slip out of the top four and into seventh place. While few would

have expected Newcastle to take much more than the one point they

did from successive games against Manchester City, Manchester

United and Chelsea, they themselves would have banked on the same

return from a trip to Norwich and home clashes with Swansea and

West Brom. Injuries and suspensions have bitten hard into the squad

during that period, but Ba, who will lead the line once again at

Bolton on Boxing Day as the Magpies attempt to end their drought,

insists spirits have not dropped as a result. He said: “I don’t

think it has affected anybody in the team and personally, it hasn’t

affected me. “When you look at the schedule, we have played three

of the top teams and we could have got more from that. “We just

missed some of the little things that could have made a victory or

something else. “But it hasn’t affected me and it hasn’t affected

the team, and we are just going to try to get back to winning.” The

fixtures come thick and fast over the holiday period, something

which will be a new experience for Ba, who arrived at Upton Park

from Hoffenheim only at the end of January. He admits he does not

know how he will cope with the gruelling programme, but is looking

forward to it. He said: “I don’t know, it will be the first time

because last season, I came just after that. “But I think I am

going to enjoy it because games are more exciting than training.”

Pardew has already indicated influential midfielder Yohan Cabaye

will return to the starting line-up after serving a one-match ban

in midweek, despite his delight with Haris Vuckic’s display as his

replacement in his first Premier League start against the Baggies.

Left-back Davide Santon failed to return after the break with a

knee problem, and while the Italian’s injury is being assessed,

Ryan Taylor was fit enough after an ankle injury to play the second

half as his replacement.