Fitness is the focus for Demba Ba

DEMBA Ba took more satisfaction from feeling back to his best after Ramadan than breaking his goalscoring duck for Newcastle United in spectacular fashion at the weekend.

Demba Ba

DEMBA Ba took more satisfaction from feeling back to his best after Ramadan than breaking his goalscoring duck for Newcastle United in spectacular fashion at the weekend.

The Senegalese striker failed to find the net in his first five Magpies appearances. Having ended that sequence with a brilliant turn and shot against Blackburn Rovers, he proceeded to score his first Premier League hat-trick, in a 3-1 win.

Afterwards Ba insisted his physical condition was more important than having something to show for it on the scoresheet.

“As a striker it is always important to score the first goal for your club, the sooner the better,” said the player signed from West Ham United in the summer. “It didn’t play on my mind though, I was more focused on getting my sharpness back in this game.

“Even if I had not scored a hat-trick I would still have been happy as I felt sharp. That was my goal. My team-mates were really happy for me and all signed the matchball.”

Ba, whose last treble came for Hoffen-heim against Stuttgart two years ago, was hampered at the start of the season by his religion. As a Muslim, Ba was expected to fast in August, prohibited from eating and drinking during daylight hours.

“I trained every day,” he said. “I did everything asked of me and I have been doing this (fasting) ever since I was a young boy.

“Sometimes it doesn’t affect you at all, sometimes you start feeling a bit tired. But it is not something new to me – I have been doing this for a long time. I am used to it and it is something very important to me. My faith is where I get my confidence and energy from. I will not quit doing this because I can’t.

“I was sharp during that time although maybe not quite as sharp as I would like to have been.”

West Ham’s top-scorer last season, Ba proved the most high-profile striker Newcastle signed during a transfer window in which the club’s fans were promised a talisman capable of filling the iconic No.9 shirt.

“It would not have mattered if they had brought a new striker in because it would have been good for the team,” Ba insisted. “The manager is thinking about the team and the players have to think about it too. They can bring as many strikers in as they want as far as I am concerned. It would not bother me at all.

“Whatever happens I will just keep working and trying to show what I can do.”

Newcastle’s 3-1 win was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, if not more so, despite Martin Olsson hitting the crossbar after David Hoilett pulled the score back to 2-1. Olsson was sent off with 20 minutes remaining. Having been booked for protesting about Ba’s hat-trick goal 15 minutes earlier, he hauled down Leon Best as the striker broke across the halfway line.

Rovers believed Best fouled Scott Dann seconds before Ba’s header crossed the goal-line for his third. Newcastle manager Alan Pardew shrugged off opposite number Steve Kean’s suggestion it was decisive to the result.

The game kicked off hours after the teams were paired in the fourth round of the League Cup, this time at Ewood Park.

“If you look at the other ties many Premier League teams are playing against each other and the winner can look forward to the quarter-finals,” commented Kean.

“We are fortunately at home and we hope to go very far.

“We are delighted to have home tie but we have other business to take care of and we will lick our wounds.”

The tie will be played during the week beginning October 24.

CARLING CUP FOURTH-ROUND DRAW: Wolves v Manchester City, Cardiff v Burnley, Blackburn v Newcastle, Arsenal v Bolton, Stoke v Liverpool, Aldershot v Manchester United, Crystal Palace v Southampton, Everton v Chelsea.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer