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Why Davide Santon has the hunger to succeed at Newcastle United

By Lee Ryder on Oct 11, 12 10:07 AM


There was once a period in this country when watching stars from Serie A was only available on a Saturday morning taking in Channel Four's old Gazzetta Football Italia programme.

The popularity of the Italian game, around the start of the 92/93 season, at that time coincided with Newcastle United side that had just Pavel Srníček and Benny Kristensen on their books as overseas players.

Just for old time's sake I've included the start of the programme that became as much a part of a Sunday afternoon for football fans as Yorkshire pudding back in the day.

These days, the Premier League, in my opinion, has overtaken Serie A in terms of overall quality and glamour and the Serie A stars are now hungry to ply their trade in England.

At St James' Park we have our very own Davide Santon flying the flag for Italy, and the good news is he is happy and up for the challenge that lies ahead of him.

Santon was a celebrated signing when he arrived from Inter Milan and he didn't take long to get into the swing of things.

Of course it used to be the other way around, Gazza was a Geordie in Italy and now Santon is the Italian in Newcastle, if ever you wanted a sign of the times in European football that's it.

Then Channel 4 snapped up the rights just to show Gazza's progress in Serie A, mind you I can't see the roles being reversed and Italy's version of James Richardson sat in the Bigg Market going through what is being said in the Evening Chronicle!

On a sunny day at St James' Park my opening impressions of the man that Jose Mourinho once described as "a phenomenon", were that he was keen to understand the city of Newcastle.

Questions from him, via an interpreter, were asked intriguingly about life in the Premier League, the Geordie fans and which team would fill the void of the Milan derby he was leaving behind at the San Siro.

Back then, Santon was shocked that Newcastle fans had a song about the city he spent six years of his life in, and found the chant of "Have you ever seen a Mackem in Milan" rather amusing, quickly replying: "I have never seen one there either."

However, then the serious stuff began for Santon and understandably as a young player he found the first few months tough.

An injury in training early on certainly didn't help his cause, and then he had to adapt to the English game.

Serie A differs from the Premier League in that going down after the slightest piece of contact is the norm, it won't always win you a free-kick or a penalty in Italy, but generally most top flight players will try their best to get as much out of the referees as they can.

In England, while diving is a problem here too at times, the game is more physical and the amateur dramatics usually get you nowhere.

Having taken that on board and learned the lingo to boot Santon's performances and influence on games have started to kick in.

His progress has resulted in rave reviews winging their way back to Italy.

Sampdoria had to come out recently and play down talk they were interested, but in transfers there no smoke without fire.

Inter Milan have also been credited with interest too.

But it appears that Santon is happy and settled on Tyneside.

He's met a local Geordie girl and is mastering the language day by day.

Certainly, it is all a far cry from his first few months in England when his parents stayed with him to ensure he was enjoying some home cooking!

It can't be easy settling in another country and playing at the top of your game, you just need to ask Xisco or Albert Luque that question.

Yet if there's a will there's a way.

Hopefully, like foreign stars like Philippe Albert and Pav - eventually rewarded with his own Pavel is a Geordie chant - Santon can continue his integration at Newcastle and become a real star for the Toon Army.

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Lee Ryder

Lee Ryder - Proudly born and bred on Tyneside, the Chronicle's chief sports writer has followed the fortunes of the club over the last three decades as a Toon fan and football writer.

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