Yes, believe it or not it’s ten years to the day since Demba Ba put pen to paper at St James’ Park.
After being in a relegated West Ham side in 2010/11, he invoked a release clause in his contract allowing him to leave for free.
He turned down a £50,000-a-week salary plus a bonus payment of £500,000 in order to stay in the Premier League with another club – triggering interest from both Everton and Newcastle United – and eventually signed a three-year deal with NUFC on 17 June 2011.
What a signing he proved to be. His first goals for the club came on 24 September 2011 with a hat-trick against Blackburn Rovers in a 3–1 home win. A second hat-trick came in a 3–1 away win at Stoke City, taking his league total to 8 and maintaining our 11-game unbeaten league start, taking us to 3rd in the league.
His goalscoring form continued despite the team’s form dipping and saw him picked in ESPN‘s Premier League Best XI for the first half of the season and named Premier League Player of the Month for December 2011.
By the time Demba left to play in the January 2012 Africa Cup of Nations his league tally had reached 15, making him second top scorer in the league behind Arsenal’s Robin van Persie. He left for the tournament on a high note, scoring the first in a 3–0 home win over Manchester United, our first victory against Man. United in over a decade.
While at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament, Ba’s Senegal teammate Papiss Cissé also signed for Newcastle. They both returned earlier than expected after Senegal finished bottom of their group.
Demba returned to action against Aston Villa on their visit to St James’ Park on 5 February 2012, his return proved to be a goal scoring one as he netted the opener in a 2 – 1 win. It was actually his last goal of the season.
He was moved by Alan Pardew to the left of a three-pronged attack with Papiss Cissé leading the line and grabbing 12 goals in the second half of the season. Despite this late season slump, Demba was voted as the best signing of the 2011–12 season by Premier League managers, finishing the season as our top goal scorer with 16 goals.
The following season he got off to a strong start in pre-season, scoring in a 1–0 win against Monaco, and also scored in a 2–1 win against Braga which helped Newcastle win the Guadiana Trophy.
In our first league game against Tottenham, he opened the scoring with a fantastic, volleyed effort in a 2–1 win. Then on 17 September 2012, he scored Newcastle’s 1000th goal of the Premier League era, whilst netting scoring both goals in a 2–2 draw at Everton.
He scored for the third game in a row as he scored twice in a 2–2 draw away to Reading, the first a volley, the second however proved controversial as the ball struck his arm before going in. But the rumours were building about a possible move in January.
It was known that he had a release clause in his contract valued at £7 million causing speculation of him making a transfer to Chelsea. This was confirmed by Pardew on 2 January 2013 who said that the transfer was “done” and Ba would “go to Chelsea with our blessing.”
Whether it was with the Club’s blessing or not we’ll never know. What we do know is that 29 goals in 54 games was an excellent effort and one that will always give him a place in NUFC hearts.
Indeed, after a mere 7 goals for Chelsea in two seasons where he only played 33 games it became apparent that he was going to be on the move again and despite us being linked with a return he went instead to Besiktas in Turkey.
Perhaps we missed out and should have brought him back as wherever he went after that, China and back to Turkey he continued to score goals even last season at the age of 36. One thing seems apparent is that he was a success at Newcastle and we could do with him now.