His defending can be every bit as hair-raising as his appearance, but Fabricio Coloccini has developed into something of a cult hero at Newcastle United. Chief Sports Writer Scott Wilson met the Argentinian to discuss responsibility, relegation and ringlets.

GIVEN that his failure to converse freely in English prevents him from conducting many interviews, there are so many questions you want to ask of Fabricio Coloccini when you finally get an opportunity to sit next to him.

What does a £10m defender feel about playing in the Championship? How has a flamboyant South American adapted to life on the banks of the Tyne? What is it like to work with the legendary Diego Maradona?

For a minute or two, though, all of that can wait.

First and foremost, it’s time to talk about hair.

Half Brian May from Queen, half Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons, Coloccini boasts the most extravagant haircut in English football. It’s long, it’s blonde and it’s curly, but incredibly it might also one day disappear.

Not to celebrate Newcastle’s return to the Premier League – in Coloccini’s eyes, that is a minimum requirement this season. But if the Magpies were to one day return to the Champions League, the perm would perish. A place in the top four, and the most famous curls in football would hit the floor.

“People talk about my hair a lot,” said Coloccini, who combines speaking through an interpreter with sporadic attempts at conversational English. “Would I shave it off if we got promoted? No, no, but maybe one day.

“We should go up, so that is not something I will consider. But I would happily shave it all off if we can qualify for the Champions League.

“It seems a very long way off, when you look where we are, but Newcastle are a club with the potential to play in the Champions League again. It would be fantastic, and if it happens, I’ll cut my hair off to celebrate.”

A bald Coloccini would be every bit as recognisable as the hirsute version that joined Newcastle from Deportivo La Coruna in August 2008.

Having spent seven years playing in Spain, the 27-yearold suffered an inevitable culture shock when he swapped the warmth of northern Spain for the windswept climes of North- East England, but despite the traumas of last season’s relegation, he has learned to love his new home.

He likes the warmth of the greetings he receives whenever he walks along Newcastle’s Quayside. He likes the passion that courses through the city at 3 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon. And while he still detests the rain, he has even learned to tolerate the extremes of the North-East climate.

“The best thing about playing for Newcastle United is the fans,” said Coloccini. “I get recognised in the street and get a lot of respect. It makes me very proud to represent them.

“It was not the same in Spain or Argentina. I like the attitude of the people in Newcastle, their attitude to life and the football team.

“The people have taken me to their heart and that means so much. To come here and be treated so well by people, I didn’t know what to expect, but this is a special place and it means a lot to me. I have a lot of affection for the place, despite the weather.”

That affection helped persuade Coloccini to remain at St James’ Park, despite last season’s drop into the Championship.

A number of Spanish clubs expressed an interest in the centre-half in the summer, but a sense of responsibility for May’s relegation persuaded him to rebuff their advances and commit to a season in English football’s second tier.

“I have a strong bond with the fans and I feel as though I owe them something,” said Coloccini. “I stayed at Newcastle because it is a big club and a famous club. It is just an accident that we have gone down.

“Newcastle should not be in the Championship and I want to help get the team back into the Premier League. That was all I thought about in the summer.

“To get Newcastle back up would be a big achievement.

It wouldn’t be the greatest achievement of my career because we shouldn’t be in the Championship anyway, but it would give me a lot of satisfaction to win promotion with this team.

“It is so important for the city because I know how big a part of the city the football team is.

“We recognise that and want to make up for getting relegated.”

That process continues with this afternoon’s home game against Peterborough, and having survived a bruising physical encounter with Sheffield United striker Darius Henderson on Monday night, 32-time Argentine international Coloccini insists he is relishing the crash, bang and wallop of life outside the Premier League.

“As a defender, you take a lot of kicks and elbows and are constantly in a battle with the centre-forward,” he said.

“The referee doesn’t see a lot of it and it is even tougher in the Championship.

“I’ve had to learn to cope with it and stand up for myself.

“I feel I’m comfortable doing that after the experience of last year. I’m not worried by it now.”

■ The Northern Echo would like to thank interpreter Marge Reed for her help with this interview.