Newcastle United Defender Davide Santon Swaps Pasta For Pies

26/09/2012 14:03 BST | Updated 26/09/2012 14:04 BST

Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew has revealed Davide Santon's good form may be down to his local girlfriend providing him with pies.

Santon, a £5m signing from Internazionale last year, has emerged as a regular at left-back thanks to his consistent performances and Ryan Taylor's long-term lay-off after he damaged his cruciate ligament.

And Pardew, speaking ahead of the Magpies' Capital One Cup clash with Manchester United on Wednesday night,

"He is a lovely lad, loves the area and does a great job," an effusive Pardew said.

"His language skills have improved. I think he has a north-east girlfriend now cooking him some nice pies so he is a bit happier. He just looks in a good place and I am really pleased with him.

"I think he was a boy last year. He is a man now and is starting to play like a man."

José Mourinho gave Santon his Inter debut as an 18-year-old against Roma in January 2009, but it was his performance up against Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo in the Champions League a month later which elevated his profile.

Ronaldo praised his opponent as "impressive" while Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi described him as "A predestined that reminds of a young Paolo Maldini."

However injuries and a crisis of confidence cut short a promising career in Serie, but the 21-year-old is now winning more admirers on Tyneside.