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Sep, 19, 2012

Pardew: No rift with Demba Ba

Talk of a rift between Alan Pardew and striker Demba Ba is wide of the mark, according to the Newcastle boss.

•  Agent: Ba could be forced to move

Ba registered his unhappiness at being named on the substitutes' bench against Everton on Monday night, after he had helped Newcastle claim a point with two goals in the second half, saying there were things he "wasn't happy with".

His agent, Alex Gontran, then went one step further and said Ba would consider leaving the club if he was deployed as a substitute too often during the coming season and remarked on the fact Ba had been used in a wide role at the end of last season.

But ahead of Newcastle's opening Europa League group tie with Maritimo, Pardew denied there was a problem, though the club's hierarchy are thought to be distinctly unimpressed with Ba's outburst.

He said: "That's just people needing to say things they shouldn't say, really, but it doesn't really affect me and Demba. We have got a good relationship."

Ba was signed on a free before the start of last season and chalked up 15 goals for Newcastle before fellow Senegal striker Papiss Cisse arrived. However, he only managed one from January onwards as he was forced to play second fiddle to Cisse.

His form led to speculation that a series of suitors might activate the £7.5 million release clause in Ba's contract during the summer, although the deadline came and went without incident.

Pardew, who suggested some players operate better when they are angry, added: "The bottom line is you have to get your players to play at their best and sometimes there are different methods of doing that."

Ba and Cisse were conspicuous by their absence when a largely inexperienced 19-man squad jetted out from Tyneside for Thursday's clash with Maritimo, although Cisse was withdrawn because of illness.

Shola Ameobi will start on a night when 37-year-old Steve Harper hopes to extend a European career that he admits he thought was over.

The goalkeeper made his first senior appearance for the club in almost 17 months in the away leg of the play-off against Greek side Atromitos last month and, as a result of first-choice 'keeper Tim Krul's elbow injury, returned to Premier League action at Everton.

Asked if he thought he would ever play in Europe again, Harper said: "Last year, probably not. But this year it's well documented the conversation I had with the manager. He said we had a lot of games and if I still wanted it, it was there for me, so at the start of the year there was light at the end of the tunnel and here I am."

Despite spending much of his career as Shay Given's deputy, Harper has experienced most of the Magpies' big nights on the continental stage.

He played in a famous 1-0 Champions League victory over Juventus at St James' Park and was in the side that beat Dynamo Kiev 2-1 in the same competition in 2002-03, while he was on the bench on the night of Craig Bellamy's late winner against Feyenoord in Rotterdam fired the club into the second group stage.

Harper said: "Obviously, the two Champions League games against Juventus and Dynamo Kiev were special, the Feyenoord night, going to Barcelona, the San Siro. It was fantastic. The good thing about this is I was able to sit and look at the draw and the bonus is we are going to three places we haven't been to before.

"We are going to Madeira, Bordeaux and Bruges. I was looking at the draw and looking at Partizan Belgrade thinking, 'I've been there twice, can we please go somewhere else?'

"Not that there's anything wrong with Belgrade, but you just want to go out and experience new places. It's fantastic to come to Maritimo and I'll hopefully get to Bordeaux and Bruges as well."

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