STEVE Harper has urged Newcastle United’s fringe players to follow Demba Ba’s lead and fight their corner on the field, even if the striker’s agents insist on talking for him off it.
Ba was unhappy to be on the bench for Monday’s game at Everton, but scored twice as a half-time substitute to earn the Magpies’ first point away from home this season.
His agents have not taken the news well, one branding manager Alan Pardew “crazy” on Twitter, another suggesting Ba would leave if the situation continued.
Harper – who admits he did not take losing his own place as professionally as he ought to have last season – was impressed with Ba’s response and wants other disgruntled team-mates to do likewise in Maritimo tomorrow.
“Well, that’s Demba for you,” Harper said when asked about Ba’s post-match comments, when he admitted “Lately I have not been so happy with some things.” Harper continued: “He replied in the best possible way with two goals. That’s what Demba can do.
“If you’re left out you’re entitled to be a little bit disappointed but when you get your opportunity, take it.
“We’ve got a game on Thursday where hopefully players will come into it looking to show the manager – like Demba did at Goodison – that they’re still a part of it as well and desperate to get into the first team.”
Ba’s brother Hamady took to Twitter before Monday’s game to question Pardew’s selection. Another agent, Alex Gontran, cast doubt on the striker’s St James’ Park future.
“Since returning from the Africa Cup of Nations, Demba doesn’t understand the management,” he said. “If he continues to be a substitute all season, we’ll look at other solutions.”
Ba scored 16 goals in the first half of last season and while he was at the Africa Cup of Nations, Newcastle signed his fellow Senegalese striker Papiss Cissé.
Ba only scored one more goal all season – on Cissé’s debut – and was often out of position on the left of a front three
to accommodate his compatriot. “How could you put your best striker with full confidence on the left wing?” Gontran asked.
“The choice to put Demba on the left last season was good for the club, because Cissé scored 13 goals. But there was a lack of recognition for Demba.
“It is more difficult to play well when you don’t have the confidence of your staff.” With Pardew determined to keep the number of regular starters playing all of the Magpies’ three games this week to a minimum, a host of fringe players will be given their chance in the Europa League.
Pardew name-checked Gabriel Obertan after Monday’s game as another unhappy not to have started it, though the club has dismissed rumours that the French winger refused to come on as a substitute.
Harper though was making his first Premier League appearance since April 2011, something he admitted he had written off long ago.
“I probably didn’t think a night like this would come again,” he said. “It looked a long way away.
“It was probably a little bit my fault as well. When Tim (Krul) started last season admittedly I got the hump a bit and let my standards slip.”
Harper praised Pardew’s positive response when his team trailed Everton 1-0 at half-time on Monday. “At half-time the manager was not a happy man,” he revealed. “He said in the dressing room it was the worst we’d played under him.
“He made a very bold substitution, which is credit to him because it certainly worked. When you’re 1-0 down away from home you need to get the next goal and that’s what we did.
“Then he made another change and went three up front away from home, which shows he really has that commitment to win a game away from home, which I’m sure the fans love.”