Ba ready for Senegal

Newcastle star sorry to leave

Demba Ba: Newcastle United striker is ready for Senegal duty

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Newcastle star Demba Ba admits it will be hard for him to leave the club and jet off to the African Cup of Nations.

The ACN begins next month in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and Ba is set to feature for Senegal.

But he will be forced to leave Newcastle, where he has really hit form this season, for a few weeks.

"It's going to be difficult, very difficult, because the season is still running and it just feels like you are going and the team is staying," he said.

"It's going to be weird because it is going to be my first African Cup as well.

"But I just hope I don't go there for nothing.

"For me, for the whole country, for the whole team, we are just excited to be playing in this competition, and we are going to try to come back and make our country proud of us."

Asked if he will have one eye on events on Tyneside during his absence, Ba replied: "Not one, two."

Factor

Ba's goals have been a major factor in Newcastle's impressive start to the season, although his three in the last four games, including a penalty at Manchester United, have helped to secure only a single point with injuries biting hard into Pardew's resources at Norwich last weekend.

His form has taken some by surprise, although he insists not those who know him well.

Ba said: "Maybe a couple of people are surprised - I know some are not because they know me, they know me very well.

"If people are surprised, hopefully I am just going to continue to surprise them."

Pardew, who has contacts at West Ham following his spell in charge at Upton Park, is one of those who expected much from the former Hoffenheim striker from the off.

As he contemplated his in-form hitman's departure for Africa, he said: "We can't ignore that, we accept that's going to happen. But Demba Ba is absolutely terrific at the minute.

"We will hold on to him as long as we can and then he will go off, but then we have got Leon Best, Shola Ameobi, Peter Lovenkrands and Hatem Ben Arfa, of course, to shoulder the burden until such time as he comes back."

Ba could conceivably have ended up playing against the Magpies this weekend had a trial at Swansea earlier in his career paid dividends. However, asked if he felt he had something to prove this weekend, he said: "Not at all.

"That's a team where I went on trial and didn't make it, so I just went back home to France and did it the other way.

"On Saturday, I hope I am going to face them and try to win the game."

If Ba does have regrets about missing a significant proportion of the English season because of his international commitments, he will not be sorry to see the back of the North East weather for a few weeks at least.

He said with a smile: "It's cold. I can't get used to the cold, so I am just going to struggle until March, April."