Cisse signing shows Magpies' ambition

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

DANNY Simpson claims the arrival of Papiss Cisse is proof of Newcastle United's ambition, and expects the rest of the squad to draw inspiration from the signing of the Senegal international.

Having flown into the North-East to complete a whirlwind £9m move from Freiburg on Tuesday, Cisse returned to Equatorial Guinea yesterday to prepare for Senegal's opening Africa Cup of Nations fixture against Zambia.

The 26-year-old, who scored 33 goals in 51 Bundesliga outings, was being courted by a number of Premier League clubs, but opted to join Newcastle as soon as they were given permission to speak to his representatives.

His arrival provides a marked contrast to last January, when the Magpies were rocked by the deadline-day departure of Andy Carroll and a subsequent failure to spend any of the £35m that was received from Liverpool.

Twelve months on, and Mike Ashley has finally honoured his commitment to reinvest a significant portion of the Carroll money, something Simpson feels is a statement of the Newcastle board's intent to drive the club on.

"It's a positive," said the Magpies full-back. "There have been plenty of rumours, but signings show ambition. It is nice for the players that are already around to see it."We are doing well, but we have lost a couple of players to the African Nations Cup, so it's nice to hear of more coming in.

"We want to keep strengthening because we want to become a better unit, we want to finish higher. We don't just want to be happy with where we are. We want to keep improving."

Senior St James' Park sources have been at pains to stress that Cisse's arrival does not mean Demba Ba is set to depart this month.

Ba, who plays alongside Cisse at international level, has been the subject of considerable speculation after details of a release clause in his contract became public.

However, there is no desire to sell the in-form striker this month, and Alan Pardew has already spoken of his keenness to see Ba and Cisse reprise their international partnership at club level.

The Magpies manager has not been resting on his laurels in the last 24 hours, and with managing director Derek Llambias and football secretary Lee Charnley both in situ, is attempting to drive through the purchase of a defender before the final week of the transfer window.

West Ham United centre-half James Tomkins remains a leading target, while a possible move for Middlesbrough's Rhys Williams has also been discussed.

Tellingly, though, chief scout Graham Carr has made a number of trips to the continent in the last two months, and having pulled off what they regard as a coup with Cisse, another foray into the overseas market cannot be ruled out.

"Bringing in new players, fresh faces, is always good," said Simpson. "You can't rest up. You look at other teams over the years who have started brightly, like Blackpool, and you can dip off if you don't keep improving and look to keep it up.

"We know we have to be on our toes, we know the coaching staff and the manager we have will keep us on our toes. They want us to keep improving and pushing on."

They are also keen to retain the club's key players. An exit or two is possible this month, with Peter Lovenkrands attracting interest from Europe and Alan Smith effectively available to anyone willing to pay his wages, but there is no desire to sell regular first-team performers.

Simpson's position remains somewhat uncertain given his failure to agree a new deal, but the former Manchester United full-back denies the situation is approaching crisis point.

"I am happy and my family is happy," he said. "I love the club and I'm just enjoying it. There's nothing going on. It got blown out of all proportion a little bit."There's no bad feeling. I am happy. I am playing. The manager is happy, the owner's happy. I am just happy to be a part of it."

* Danny Simpson was speaking at a Newcastle United Foundation event at St. George's RC Primary School in Lemington, where he helped launch the Match Fit programme - a scheme aimed at encouraging young people to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle.

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