Goal-den Ba feel­ing nine and dandy!

Midweek Sport - - SPORT - By JA­SON MELLOR

DEMBA BA has played his way into New­cas­tle’s iconic No.9 shirt – even if he doesn’t want to wear it.

The in-form Sene­gal in­ter­na­tional has been one of the Premier League buys of the sea­son.

His 11 goals so far have fired the Ge­ordies’ un­ex­pected top-six bid.

Ba took the No.19 jersey on his sum­mer ar­rival from West Ham, with man­ager Alan Pardew keen not to pile the pres­sure on the high-pro­file ar­rival by invit­ing him to fol­low a stel­lar list of Ge­ordie leg­ends to have worn the fa­mous shirt.

Pardew feared that fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Alan Shearer, Mal­colm Mac­don­ald and Jackie Mil­burn was a po­ten­tial al­ba­tross the 26-year-old could do with­out in his first first sea­son on Ty­ne­side.

Pro­lific

But, af­ter see­ing the way Ba has hit the ground run­ning in the first half of the sea­son, Pardew now ad­mits to sec­ond thoughts at not back­ing the pro­lific striker, who will be a big miss next month while away on African Na­tions Cup duty.

Af­ter a slow start at St James’ Park – caused in part by the drain­ing ef­fects of the de­vout Mus­lim fast­ing dur­ing the month of Ra­madan – Ba has scored 11 goals in 12 games, in­clud­ing two hat-tricks.

That has given New­cas­tle an out­side chance of go­ing into Christ­mas in the top six if they beat Roy Hodg­son’s side and Liver­pool slip up at Wi­gan tonight.

Pardew said: “Demba’s all-round abil­ity in terms of the goals and every­thing he’s given us has been a real bonus this year.

“In fact, if I knew he’d per­form to that level he would have got the No.9 shirt. Some of the things he has pro­duced so far have been ex­cep­tional.

“We have a real tal­ent there and we’ll miss him for the African Na­tions Cup, that’s for sure.”

UTIL­ITY MAN: Lau­rent Ko­scielny has filled boss Arsene Wenger’s holes

TOONED IN: Demba Ba has al­ready hit 11 goals for New­cas­tle

DE­LIGHTED: Pardew

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