DEMBA Ba does not give off the impression that he’s had a stressful summer – although his natural demeanour rather does suggest that this is one man who simply doesn’t do stress or worry.
While Newcastle fans spent a lot of pre-season mightily concerned that they would lose a player they had come to love, the infamous July 31 deadline came and went and the big Senegalese remained on Tyneside.
“If Demba Ba leaves Newcastle today then I will die,” was the rather dramatic posting on Twitter from one supporter on the final day when another club could have used a clause in his contract to sign him for £7.5million.
Ba himself has taken to Twitter to drop some subtle hints about what would happen and every uttering was greeted with pleas for him to stay. And no wonder when you look at what he has done so far and what he could still achieve at St James’ Park.
The striker, who at 27 should be entering his peak years, was a sensation for Newcastle last time, even if the goals dried up when he moved to a wider role to accommodate Papiss Cissé following his January arrival.
The former West Ham United player has talent in abundance and, when on form, can genuinely terrorise defences like few other attackers in the Premier League. Speaking to The Journal after Newcastle’s friendly game with Den Haag in Holland at the weekend, Ba wanted to get over the point that he is now only concentrating and looking forward to one thing – to bring success to St James’ Park.
He’s a cool, big guy with a laidback attitude to life. His philosophy is simple; if he feels good off the park, then he will feel good on the park and, right now, Ba is enjoying his life ahead of what could be an outstanding campaign for him.
Even the moronic racist abuse directed at him and his team-mates on Saturday by people who “need to man up” couldn’t put a dent in his mood.
Ba said: “What I’m all about is enjoying my life and enjoying my football. I like to play with a smile on my face and be happy. This is my life.
“My ambitions for this season personally are similar to last season. I want the team and also me to be in good shape, the best shape we can be, and I want to play as many games as possible; the maximum amount of games if I can.
“And then I was to win as much with Newcastle as it is possible to do.”
If there was any criticism that could be directed towards Ba about his first year at the club was his lack of goals from February onwards, although he is not a selfish player and did work hard for the team when his scoring spell dried up, which is to his great credit.
However, the signs have looked good in pre-season, regarding goalscoring, as he found the back of the net against Monaco and Braga.
He didn’t score in The Hague, but did go close with a first-half header that was only a few inches away from hitting the target. So what ambition does he have for next season? Ba said: “I don’t set any goal targets in terms of how many I think I’ll score.
“It’s just something I have never done.
“Let’s wait and see what happens.
“All I can do is keep on improving and doing what I have been doing with Newcastle, which is to do my best and try to help my team win.
“If I score, then great. But I am only happy if the team is winning. That is the most important thing.”
Pardew always believed that Ba would stay and is looking forward to getting an entire season out of the front three of Ba, Cissé and Hatem Ben Arfa, although the Frenchman may not be fit enough to face Tottenham in the season opener on August 18.
He is a few weeks behind in terms of pre-season training because Yohan Cabaye and he were given time off to recover from the European Championships.
Against Den Haag, Ba was rather starved of service, but playing in a front two with Cissé, he looked in the mood and fit.
For a guy whose legs look as if they top the 6ft mark, he really is an elegant footballer.
There was one moment in the second half of the Kyocera Stadium when he controlled the ball in an instant and, with a dip of his shoulder, eased his way through two defenders.
Indeed, the whole team seemed to be in pretty decent nick. Ba said: “I think the players are in good shape.
“Everyone looks fit. We have two more games now (Hartlepool United tonight and then Cardiff City in Wales on Saturday) and I think we will be ready for Tottenham when the games comes.” Pardew was annoyed, although not overly so, by the lack of a goal at the weekend and he will be looking for an improvement in front of goal at Victoria Park this evening.
However, one player not concerned about Newcastle’s failure to score – although it must be said Shola Ameobi had one chopped off that appeared to be onside – was Haris Vukic.
The 19-year-old, speaking to Newcastle’s official website, said: “If we had scored early on then I think it would have opened the game up and we would have won easily.
“But they kept a clean sheet, we kept a clean sheet and it was very important that we didn’t concede. Because we created so many chances, the goals will come. With the strikers we have, you know they will always score goals.”
Newcastle fans will have smiles on their own faces that Demba Ba is one of those strikers.