THE uncertainty that continues to cloud Demba Ba’s future does not extend to his value to Alan Pardew and his ailing Newcastle United.
Of that, there is not one iota of doubt – as he proved with a match-winning contribution in the most important match of Pardew’s two-year tenure.
Put simply, Ba is Newcastle United’s Mr Reliable at the moment. Whatever else seems to be swirling around St James’ Park at any given time – be it the unedifying spectre of his contract negotiations playing out in public or the poor form that has hamstrung Newcastle’s season – he always manages to deliver.
Ten times he has found the back of the net in the Premier League this season and nearly all of those have come at critical junctures for the Magpies. Last night’s brace was no different, lancing the threat of the visiting Latics while also loosening talk of Newcastle’s campaign reaching crisis point.
When he hobbled off on 86 minutes – gingerly treading the turf as he headed towards the dressing rooms – you could hear St James’ Park inhale. The hope has to be that Newcastle’s talisman will not be facing a long spell on the sidelines, for he is a player of pivotal importance to any black-and-white recovery.
It was perhaps typical that his evening ended on a note of uncertainty. His advisers have turned down Newcastle’s latest contract offer and, in St James’ Park’s senior circles, his presence beyond January is not taken for granted.
He certainly doesn’t look like a player on his way, although his desire to have his importance to the cause reflected in his contract is understandable.
Ba is not motivated by material things, but his advisers are seeking the best possible deal for the prolific striker, and his continuing excellence is the strongest argument they could wish for as contract negotiations rumble on.
Ba was the talisman as Newcastle delivered an emphatic riposte to the pressing questions that have been posed by their alarming November slump.
Buoyed by an early red card that was a shade contentious, United were finally able to impose themselves on a Premier League game and the results were pleasing to the eye.
The charges laid at Pardew’s door during a disappointing month have been that his team goes direct too often, and don’t seem to be set up in a formation that makes the most of their talent. Last night, both accusations were unpicked in a display that replenishes black-and-white confidence ahead of a testing festive programme.