Newcastle are facing up to life with out their talisman… Ba humbug
Demba Ba is up with the best in the Barclays Premier League and Newcastle are about to discover what life is like without him.
Only Robin van Persie, with 16, has scored more than Ba’s 13 goals this season, and only the Arsenal captain and Wayne Rooney have scored more than his 20 in 2011.
Since signing for Newcastle on a free, Ba has scored 13 goals, 59 per cent of the club’s tally.
Goal star: Ba has scored nearly two thirds of Newcastle”s league goals this season
How they will miss that when Ba goes to the Africa Cup of Nations with Senegal next month.
Although Newcastle failed to win their last two home games, Ba, who scored two with unstoppable shots in Wednesday’s 3-2 defeat by West Bromwich Albion, could easily have claimed two hat-tricks.
He was denied by three brilliant saves, one unlucky header in front of an open goal and one wayward finish. He also hit the woodwork three times.
The 26-year-old is on fire. He knows it, his team-mates know it and Bolton centre backs Gary Cahill and Zat Knight will know it at the Reebok Stadium.
‘I have a lot of confidence at the moment and I am just going out and playing my football,’ said Ba. ‘I have never been in such good form. My goal-per-game average at Hoffenheim was not bad but I never had this kind of run before. It seems that the Premier League is the best league for me.
‘I don’t set a goals target, I just target how I feel and how I am playing and at the moment I am doing well. As long as I am having fun, I am happy. It is all about having fun. As long as I can say it is fun, that is good.’
Ba took the No 19 when he signed. There is even talk of him wearing the No 9 shirt next season and he does not appear to be a man who would be fazed by such a celebrated jersey.
Eyebrows were raised when Pardew signed Ba, even though it was for nothing. But this was a powerful proven finisher who had scored seven goals for West Ham, despite their troubles.
The doubts probably go back to his failed medical at Stoke before West Ham paid Hoffenheim 6million. Ba hit a hat-trick at the Britannia for Newcastle in October and his celebrations had a little edge to them.
The striker said: ‘Alan Pardew always told me I would score goals and he gives me a lot of confidence. At the moment I just want to carry on what I am doing now, scoring goals for him.
Impressed: Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been pleased with Ba”s form this season
‘When I got the call from Newcastle in the summer I decided quickly what I wanted to do. I asked my agent to look at the club and tell me what he thought, whether I would be all right up there. He told me that Newcastle would be the best choice and he was right.’
Naturally Pardew is delighted with Ba’s strike rate, but the lack of goals from other areas — his regular partner Leon Best has failed to score in his last eight starts — is a concern.
And Newcastle, who are in the market for a forward next month, will have to adapt quickly to life without their top scorer when he departs for Africa.
Dream team: Under the management of Pardew and with the goals of Ba, Newcastle made a flying start to the season
Pardew said: ‘Every time the ball comes near him he seems to hit the target. In terms of the other strikers not contributing or rather not scoring at the moment, perhaps that is a worry and we’re going to have to look at the side and make sure we get the balance right, so that we’re not so dependent on Demba.
‘Having said that, he’s smashing them in from free-kicks and everywhere at the moment. He’s in such great form that we have to take that as a major asset and take it forward from that.
‘He’s a great player. You’re going to miss great players. He’s going to the Africa Cup of Nations and he’ll probably want to win that knowing Demba and the way he’s playing he probably could. He’s been absolutely terrific for us.’
Ba added: ‘It will be a terrible blow to leave the team. This is my club and I am proud of it, but this is for my country.
‘I am going there to play for my country and to try to win. I am not going there for a holiday. It is a big tournament. I have mixed feelings about going away, but I have to.
‘I want to make my people and my country proud in the Africa Cup of Nations. I will feel sad leaving Newcastle at this stage because everything is going well, although we need to improve some results.’