Kazenga LuaLua's departure from Newcastle United 13 months ago caused far fewer ripples on Tyneside than that of Demba Ba this week. Today, LuaLua will hope to make a bigger impression on his former club by helping Brighton knock them out of the FA Cup for the second season in succession.
LuaLua was injured when Newcastle lost 1-0 at the Amex Stadium last season, but after more fitness problems and a loss of form, he has forced his way into the Brighton team and is looking forward to reminding Toon fans of his footballing abilities, rather than an incident off the field.
The Kinshasa-born 22-year-old left Newcastle on a permanent transfer after spending three separate spells on loan with Brighton, but remained in the news in the city after being charged with affray over an incident outside the Riverside nightclub in June 2011.
In November a jury at Newcastle crown court was discharged after failing to reach a verdict. A retrial has been set for June, leaving the winger free to complete the season, even if Brighton reach the play-off final.
His form blossomed as a result. "It's been a very tough season for me, with many things off the field as well," he said.
"It's just good to get back in the team and try to play well, which I think I'm doing at the moment. When I made the decision to leave Newcastle it wasn't just about football. I thought my choice was good and my family was happy with it as well.
"Obviously they knew I used to go out with my friends then come back at stupid times. I don't do that any more. I've settled down. If you ask any players they'll say Newcastle is a party town and everybody knows everybody. That's probably why Demba Ba left, because of parties," LuaLua said.
Whether Ba, a family man and Muslim, would agree is uncertain, but the Brighton manager, Gustavo Poyet, is relieved that LuaLua's mind is more settled. "There was an issue away from football which, because of his personality, was a problem for him," Poyet said. "Until he got clear from the court case, he was not the same person."
LuaLua was living with his elder brother, Lomana, the former Newcastle, Portsmouth and Blackpool striker, when he was offered a trial at St James' Park.
"I was just in a local team in Newcastle then, Wallsend Town. I was at home playing on my PlayStation and my brother came back from training and said: 'Get your stuff, you're going on trial for Newcastle'."
Kazenga LuaLua worked his way up through the youth ranks but never made a league start for the club before he moved to Brighton, where he has become a fan favourite for his explosive wing play and powerful shooting.
"You can ask Mauricio Taricco, who's a full-back, if he wants to play 90 minutes against him," said Poyet, referring to his assistant manager.
LuaLua said: "I was at Newcastle for five or six years, which was like a dream for me because it is a massive club but I don't think I got a chance and that's the time to think about leaving. I think I made the right choice. "I had a good time in Newcastle and it's always disappointing when you leave a team but you have to think about your future and your career."
Now he hopes to prove that he had more to offer than Toon fans were able to see, but if he scores they will not witness the somersault goal celebration, banned by Brighton's club doctor. "I don't think I'll celebrate anyway if I score because Newcastle are the team that gave me my professional contract," he said.
"Playing against a Premier League team, it won't be easy. They've got injuries, they're struggling and not winning so many games, and we've just started winning games. We beat Newcastle and Sunderland [in the League Cup] last season, so why not again?"Reuse content