HE has grasped the English language and picked up a North-East girlfriend who is carrying his first child. If Newcastle United’s fortunes improved, life on Tyneside would be just about perfect for Davide Santon.
In a few months time, when the 22-year-old enters fatherhood, sleepless nights will become the norm, but it is a problem he is already encountering as he tries to revive the Magpies’ Premier League fortunes.
When Newcastle surrendered their one-goal lead to Reading last Saturday afternoon by losing for the 12th time in 16 matches, the atmosphere inside St James’ Park took a turn for the worse.
Loading article content
The decision-making of manager Alan Pardew was under more scrutiny than it has ever been before during his two-year reign, with the threat of dropping into the relegation zone a real concern.
But Santon, enjoying his best run of form in a Newcastle shirt since his £5m switch from Inter Milan 18 months ago, has moved to explain how the players are also hurting by results on the pitch.
“It has been hard. I couldn’t sleep after the game on Saturday night because I was so disappointed,”
said the man from the town of Portomaggiore in north-east Italy.
“I was going through things in my mind what had happened, over and over, and that kept me awake. It was difficult to take in. What I would say to the fans is that the players always give 100 per cent on the pitch. Nobody goes out there to lose.
“One thing you need to know is that everyone cares about the club. I care so much about Newcastle United. This is my second year in a team that has given me a lot.
“I owe the club so much because they gave me a chance to play in the Premier League when I was so young. The manager has given me a lot of confidence, as have my teammates, in my two years here.”
His comments should be reassuring to Newcastle supporters.
With the Magpies sitting just two points above the bottom three ahead of next Tuesday’s crucial away trip to fellow strugglers Aston Villa, Newcastle need to have every member of the dressing room battling to keep the club up.
There have been regular suggestions from his homeland that AC Milan are interested in taking him back to the city where he first made his name with Inter. Santon, however, is in no rush to leave the five-year contract he signed early.
“I am very happy here,” he said. “I want to be here. I don’t know what will happen in the future, but right now all I want is for Newcastle to do well and make sure they remain in the Premier League. I want to see us win some games so the atmosphere is better.
“I just want to give back to Newcastle what they have given to me. I don’t even think about Newcastle playing in the Championship. We will stay in the Premier League, but it’s up to all of us to make sure that happens.”
Having worked hard on being able to speak English, he has now become a strong voice in the dressing room when things are not going well.
“I didn’t speak a lot, but I say a lot more now. If I think something is good or bad then I will say so,” said Santon. “I speak with the manager and the team, to let them know what I think. My English is better so I speak to everyone about what is going on.
“I think it’s important that we all speak our minds. If you say nothing and keep your thoughts inside, then that’s not good. It is better for the dressing room to talk because everyone has different opinions on the situation. Then we can work out the problems.
“We have to be positive and look to the next game. We are all together and friends, but nobody is happy with the results and where we are.”
With Chelsea and Tottenham fixtures on the horizon after the Villa trip the situation will not improve easily. A failure to win any of those is likely to mean occupying a relegation place in February.
Having finished fifth last season, the Newcastle squad were back on the training ground yesterday determined to find a solution to the problems.
Santon said: “In the team we have good and important players. But we are not as solid in defence as we were last year and in attack, for example, every ball you gave to Papiss Cisse ended as a goal last season. But it has been different this time. Papiss has been very unlucky and not scored as many goals.”
If the goals start to flow once more, the sleepless nights might disappear – but not for long in Santon’s case.