Saturday, January 07, 2012


As expected, we'll be without both Demba Ba and Mr T for this afternoon's visit of Blackburn, the pair having jetted off to the Africa Cup of Nations. Both were absolutely immense in the thumping win over Man Utd, so it's inevitable that there are concerns about how we'll cope in their absence.

Ba, the newly crowned Premier League Player of the Month for December, racked up five goals in six games in the final month of 2011, though only finished on the winning side once. Meanwhile, on Wednesday night Mr T lived up to his pre-match billing by Sky studio guest Saylor as an "animal" who strikes fear into the hearts of opposition players, motoring ceaselessly around the pitch and tearing into tackles.

But does the fact that we've been deprived of their considerable talents and qualities for five or six weeks justify a gripe about the Africa Cup of Nations and its timing? No, it doesn't. Having been hugely irritated in the past by the likes of 'Appy 'Arry, Arsene Wenger and Fat Sam moaning about losing key players to the tournament, I'm refusing to be hypocritical about this. The simple fact is that if you sign top-class African players, then you've got no cause whatsoever for complaint.

Of course it'll be upsetting if either or both return home injured as a result of their involvement, but that's just the nature of football. It's not a Little Saint Mick situation, where Ba and Mr T are pushing to play (or being forced to play) despite not being fully recovered from long-term injury. They're fit and in form, so it's perfectly fair enough if their national managers want to select them.

So good luck to both players and their respective countries, Senegal and Ivory Coast, and we look forward to welcoming them back in early February - by which time we'll hopefully have continued to collect points and still be in the FA Cup, and the Strawberry might have started serving the secret of Ba's success...

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