Demba Ba refuses to set himself any targets

 

Newcastle striker Demba Ba will not set himself any targets other than having fun on the pitch.

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 Barclays 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.

PA

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