One of football’s great myths if the relationship between Newcastle United and the number nine shirt. Tap room stories have been passed down the years about the Geordies’ love of centre forwards, or at least, the shirt that was worn by such luminaries as Jackie Milburn, Hughie Gallacher and Malcolm MacDonald. Fine players they may be, but for every Shearer, Cole and Ferdinand, there have been countless lumbering hulks who have filled the number nine position.
The latest incumbent, Papiss Cisse, has certainly set Tyneside alight with his 13 goals in 12 games, the latest two spectacular efforts cutting the three-horse race for fourth place in the Premier to two and beating Chelsea 2-0.
Cisse is from Senegal, but signed for Newcastle from SC Freiberg in January 2012, costing around £ 10 million. He is looking like a bargain and if he helps the Magpies (I refuse to use the recent label of ‘the toon’) to Champions League football in 2012-13, then his manager, Alan Pardew must go down as the manager of the year.
Why? Pardew has succeeded in making Newcastle into a credible force for the first time since Kevin Keegan’s high maintenance side threatened to win the title in the mid-1990s.
Newcastle have spent wisely since they accrued all that cash from the over-priced sale of Andy Carroll to Liverpool. Cisse has been partnered by fellow Senegalese Demba Ba, who started the season well after joining from West Ham, and has netted 16-odd goals despite drying up since February. And then there’s Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Chiek Tiote. Newcastle are looking decent again and Pardew has to take the credit for that.
There’s one final thought here. Manchester City have to go to Newcastle at the weekend. The title race is far from over….and Arsenal better watch out in third place.