Papiss Cisse interview

Cisse sold on Newcastle ambition

February 10, 2012
By Nick Bidwell
(Archive)

As the latest owner of the iconic Newcastle No. 9 shirt announced his arrival on Tyneside with a stunning winning goal against Aston Villa last Sunday, a new Geordie hero was born in an instant.

Papiss Cisse
EmpicsPapiss Cisse netted a stunning goal on his Newcastle debut

Papiss Cisse could not have dared to dream that his first game following a £9 million move from Freiburg would end with a strike that is likely to be listed as a contender for Premier League goal of the season, with his sparkling start to life at Newcastle apparently whetting his appetite for more.

At the age of 26, Cisse believes he is about to reach his peak and the passion he shows for his new club suggests he is warming to the task of propelling Newcastle towards an improbable top six finish that should secure European football for next season.

"The goal against Aston Villa was something I dreamed about and it was so amazing when it happened," begins Cisse, who will need to set about a quick-fire course of English lessons as he tries to acclimatise to the chilled North East air.

"This is how I hoped it would be at Newcastle because I had a burning desire to play for a club of standing and importance in the Premier League. In my eyes, the English championship is the most exciting in the world, the number one competition. It is a level above Germany, Italy and Spain because of the prestige, star quality and the competitiveness of all the teams in the league.

"The reason why I chose Newcastle was simple. They were very enthusiastic about me joining and I realised straight away they had their homework about me. They know what I can do well and told me in detail how they saw me fitting into their team. I was very impressed with what I heard from them.

"They are having a good season and the coach is ambitious and doesn't make a secret of his desire to push on even further. Newcastle are not Champions League participants at the moment, but they want to force themselves into that area and if I can help this come about, I'll be the happiest of men."

The prestige of leading the line for Newcastle could easily have been lost on a striker who has hardly been immersed in North East football folklore, but Cisse seems to have been well briefed on the icons he is attempting to emulate.

"I know of the love Newcastle fans have for strikers like Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer and I can only hope I have similar success," he continues. "I don't know about being a hero like the other players who played in my position because I'm happy just to be thought of as someone who does his job well.

"All I think about is the progress made in my career. I have gone from a young kid playing football in the street to scoring lots of goals for a small club in Germany and now getting a chance with a top Premier League club. This is a progression I'm very proud of."

Cisse says the prospect of linking up with his Senegal team-mate Demba Ba was one of the big attractions of sealing the switch to Newcastle, with the glowing words offered by the striker who has taken the Premier League by storm this season convincing his pal to sign for Alan Pardew's side.

"Demba painted a really positive picture of Newcastle United, from the stadium and the training facilities to the coach and the vibe around the club," he says. "He also spoke about the passion and warmth of the fans, and I have seen that already in my short time here.

"Playing alongside Demba will be both a pleasure and source of comfort to me. We know each other well and he can be my big brother in England. I'm so looking forward to playing alongside him for Newcastle. I think our playing styles complement one another. The fact that he is in such great form, scoring goals every week, will help a lot too."

Cisse says he has much to prove as he attempts to make the leap from excelling in a Freiburg side that was built around his considerable scoring talents, with the weight of expectations as a new star of Newcastle already being felt as he prepares for a huge test of his credentials against Tottenham at White Hart Lane on Saturday.

"Freiburg are a small-town side, a family club, while this club seems like another world. To me, Newcastle feels football club which is an institution, something like the Bayern Munich of the North East of England.

Papiss Cisse
GettyImagesPapiss Cisse scored 22 Bundesliga goals for Freiburg last season

"This is a big step for me, I don't deny it, but one I'm confident of taking in my stride. I like to think of myself as modest and humble but at the same time I've the strongest of beliefs in my ability to score goals and live with pressure.

"I don't imagine any problems settling. Demba Ba will offer me assistance and, with other French-speaking guys like Hatem Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Gabriel Obertan and Cheick Tiote in the squad, I'm in good hands.

"Also, I arrive here with a lot of confidence after my successes in Germany. Without belief as a striker, you are in trouble. Defenders in Germany are solid and uncompromising and that experience has toughened me up physically and sharpened me mentally."

While motivation does not seem to be an issue for Cisse just now, it appears Senegal's premature exit from the African Nations Cup is adding further fuel to his desire to set the world alight on Tyneside.

"I'm bitter about what happened with Senegal as we had the potential to do much better. Every one of us is to blame because we didn't deliver. We have a new generation of players and are in a transitional phase, but it was no excuse. We still should have gone further. Now it's up to us to bounce back and the sooner the better."

His international disappointment is natural, yet Senegal's failure allowed Cisse to start his Newcastle career earlier than expected and, having marked his debut in spectacular fashion, this shooting star is eager to confirm he is no one-hit wonder.