Whoever said that “the meek shall inherit the earth” has clearly never set foot inside St. James’ Park because Demba Ba throwing his toys out of the pram after being dropped for our trip to Everton back in September was clearly the catalyst for him wrestling ‘top dog’ status back from Papiss Cissé and ensuring that he would not be the one shoe-horned into the wide role that neither of them are truly happy in.
Despite his spectacular fall from grace and the fruitless frustration that has characterised his performances this season, it is very difficult not to feel for Cissé. If anything, he settled in too well last year and he has become the unfortunate victim of his own stunning success. However, as we all know, Cissé’s heroics came at a price – Demba Ba took a back seat as his goal-scoring exploits came to a shuddering halt after the 2-1 victory over Aston Villa on Cissé’s debut. Similarly, this season has again seen both men unable to excel in tandem and Cissé has suffered.
Being loud, greedy and petulant helped Ba get exactly what he wanted and while he once again hit a rich vein of scoring form, it came at the overall expense of the team. While his colleagues flapped about hopelessly and completely failed to get any sort of momentum going, Ba stole the limelight and used his central striking role to showcase his talents and ensure that he would finally get his big money move away from us. So, credit to Ba for his stellar performances and for being the one shining light in an increasingly dull and dispirited side but I will not be sorry to see him leave.
Team morale has clearly suffered as a result of his behaviour in the last couple of months and the happy, upbeat mood that characterised last season has been replaced with a muted and miserable silence. There have been whispers of discontent from within the dressing room and if Ba’s departure can nip that in the bud, then it may well be a blessing in disguise. The constant media speculation about his future has undermined the feel-good factor created by last season’s success and it has almost certainly contributed to the team’s below-par performances and subsequent slide into mediocrity.
Ironically, Ba may have stolen the headlines in recent times but it turns out that Cissé has won the war despite losing the private battle and the time has come for him to take centre stage once more – he has remained the consummate professional and silently sacrificed himself for the good of the team, despite his obvious unhappiness and frustration at times and now, hopefully, he can reap the rewards.
So, good night and good luck, Demba and thanks for the memories but it’s time once again to focus on those who actually want to play for the club and who are willing to pull together and work for the good of the team, not just to enhance their own reputations and bank balances. Collective success brings individual rewards but the opposite is rarely the case (we need look no further than the example of our very own Alan Shearer to prove that point) and that is the lesson that Newcastle’s players must take from the Ba saga.