HOW many times over his 10 goal-filled years at St James’ Park did the Newcastle United supporters consider themselves less than worthy just to be in the sheer presence of Alan Shearer?
At least on 206 occasions, as that’s the number of goals the record scorer managed in a black-and-white shirt. But it was probably every time they saw him on a football pitch.
So what would Papiss Cissé give to be considered worthy of being mentioned even in the same breath as probably the best No 9 the Toon Army have ever seen?
“He scores goals when he wants,” sang the fans on Monday afternoon after their new hero got his 10th in nine games in the 2-0 win against Bolton.
This strike may not have been as spectacular as some, but it sealed a victory that took his side to joint-fourth, if you will, alongside Tottenham and just two points adrift of thirdArsenal in third place.
Cissé is the man of the moment, but knows it will be all but impossible for him to be thought of with the same devotion afforded to his iconic predecessor. Although that doesn’t mean he can’t look up to the former England captain and at the very least try to emulate him in some small way.
Cissé said: “The No 9 is a big thing here; a monu-mental thing. Alan Shearer set the bar very high and I have to just follow his play, follow the path he set and try to be worthy of him.
“Shearer made the No 9 shirt great. I am not saying that I will be as good as him, but I want to be worthy of his example. To do that, I need to score a lot of goals and play well for Newcastle.”
Score goals and play well for Newcastle ... this seems the most natural thing in the world right now for Papiss Cissé. Even on Monday, when few of Alan Pardew’s side were on top form, the man from Senegal was sharp throughout, worked hard and managed to find the net. The £10m paid to SC Freiburg in January is beginning to feel like daylight robbery.
The 26-year-old timed his run into the Bolton box to perfection and, while Shola Ameobi’s cross from the right was superb, he needed someone to be there at the back post to get that second goal and make sure what had been a difficult Easter Monday ended happily. And because Tottenham lost at home to Norwich City and Chelsea could only draw at Fulham, there is not a supporter who isn’t talking about a last-four finish and Champions League qualification, never mind the possibility of the Europa League.
And why not? Tottenham are going backwards at a staggering rate of knots, while Chelsea plainly aren’t a great side and have two semi-finals, the FA Cup this weekend against Spurs and Barcelona next week in the Champions League, to occupy their minds along with the race for fourth. Cissé is keen to play down any Champions League talk even at this late stage.
But even if he is currently reliant on a translator to conduct interviews, Cissé is finding it difficult to contain his excitement about what can be achieved if things go Newcastle’s way over the final five league matches.
He said: “It is a dream for me to play in the Champions League. It would be fantastic to get there, but I don’t really want to talk about it. We have to take things match by match. I am looking at the other teams such as Arsenal and Tottenham, of course. I watch all the other matches such as, for example, the Chelsea win over Wigan when they scored their winner in the last minute, which was a shame.”
It’s incredible to think that Cissé has only been here for four months, given how settled he already is at the heart of Newcastle’s best team in some time.
He said: “I have to say that the coach is extraordinary. We have a great dressing room and the directors of the club made me feel very welcome. I was made to feel at home straight away.” Cissé has even been served up his favourite dinner at an African food day held earlier in the month at the club’s training ground, a dish that is not a regular in any North East restaurant.
It’s called Poulet Yassa, and if this is what fuels English football’s most prolific centre forward then a few of his compatriots should at least give it taste.
He revealed: “It is a specific Senegalese dish, not just African. I am not a cook myself, but it makes a nice meal. The chef here at the club (Liz) did a really good job. It is Senegalese chicken with onions and lemon and I was very happy with it.”
So now you know his secret.