HAVING suffered perhaps their most depressing defeat of the season, Demba Ba believes Newcastle United should enjoy the fact they are still punching above their weight.
On Saturday the Magpies suffered their biggest reverse since January 2008, losing 5-0 at an in-form Tottenham Hotspur.
For a club who had gone into the game knowing victory would put them fourth in the Premier League, it was a shuddering reality check. Still only a point behind Chelsea and Arsenal, this has been a far more productive campaign than even the most optimistic of Magpies could have expected.
“I didn’t think (the season) would be as successful as it has been,” admitted Ba, who as Newcastle’s 16-goal top-scorer has also confounded expectations. “You always work to be one of the best and that is what I am doing here – it is what I will continue to do.
“Other teams are working to be the best too and maybe they have a bit more quality than us, but we’re doing very well. This season is ours – we just need to enjoy it.”
Newcastle can reflect on the fact that as well as being within striking distance of two clubs who are Champions League mainstays, they remain three points ahead of a Liverpool side assembled at eye-watering expense. Even after the expensive January acquisition of Papiss Cissé, Newcastle’s two main strikers cost a combined £7.5m, compared to nearly £58m for Liverpool’s Luis Suárez and Andy Carroll.
While the Reds and others are well-blessed with star names, free transfer Ba believes it is the spirit with Newcastle’s dressing room which has allowed them to punch so spectacularly above their weight this season.
“There is no secret,” said the Senegal striker, who last term was part of a high-cost West Ham United team which was unable to stave off relegation.
“We have a strong dressing room, we have unity.”
Traditionally the problem with shoestring units is that a new player – particularly one bought at great expense – can negatively tip the balance. But Ba has no concerns over his international team-mate Cissé, who made his full debut at White Hart Lane having had it delayed by the African Cup of Nations.
Having adapted quickly to English football himself when he joined West Ham from Germany’s Bundesliga 12 months earlier, Ba thinks adjusting to the depths of the British winter will not be a problem for the man bought from Freiburg.
“Someone like Papiss comes in and he’s made to feel welcome straight away,” he said. “He’s going to be okay – he’s going to be fine.
“It’s all right at the moment (the cold). As long as it doesn’t go below zero and there’s no snow, he’ll be okay.”
Meanwhile, manager Alan Pardew has praised Newcastle’s travelling fans for the support they gave the team in north London.
Three goals in the first 21 minutes and another before half-time meant the result was in little doubt from a very early stage. But those Magpies fans who had travelled a long way for an unsympathetically scheduled evening kick-off were a credit as usual, never wavering in the noise they made. Pardew made a point, therefore, of going over to applaud them at the end of the game.
“It was a tough day for a fan and they could easily have turned their back on us,” he said. “We could also have turned our backs on each other to a degree. One or two could have pointed fingers and blamed each other.
“We talked about that at half-time and stuck together and I think the fans probably recognised that we needed to do that. I went over to thank them for sticking with us.”
Newcastle’s reserves meet their Everton counterparts behind closed doors at Finch Farm this afternoon.