Shola Ameobi has accepted that it could be time for a “fresh start” after 14 years at Newcastle United when his contract runs out at the end of the season.
Ameobi can move one step closer to an incredible World Cup place today if his Nigeria side can complete the job they started in Ethiopia by protecting a 2-1 play-off first-leg lead. It would be a remarkable achievement for the long-serving striker, who admits he feared he would have to watch the tournament in a bar after turning down the chance to play in the African Nations Cup in January.
That was because of a long-held agreement with Newcastle not to go to the tournament while Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba were also involved for Senegal – although much to his relief the Super Eagles have come back to pick the 32-year-old despite his honourable decision to turn down the call.
Ameobi is delighted to be playing international football and even happier that it could take him to the biggest football tournament on the planet, but is more sanguine about the prospects of getting another contract at Newcastle.
Accepting that 2014 is going to be a “big year”, he also knows that his long association with United can not be taken for granted. Indeed he says he is “excited” at the prospect of starting a new chapter in a career that began under the tutelage of Sir Bobby Robson in 2000.
“I am not one to look too far ahead. But I know it is a big year for me,” Ameobi said.
“I have been at Newcastle almost all my career and it could be a fresh start, a change, which I am excited about. If I can go to the World Cup and do well anything could happen.
“It is a big season before that though, there are a lot of good players Nigeria can pick from so the priority is to play well for Newcastle, get in the team and play well. If I can do that I have a better chance of being in the Nigeria squad.” Ameobi has started the last two games for Newcastle and performed well against Chelsea before operating in a similar role in the Tottenham game.
United won both, which was a further illustration that the 32-year-old forward is a very useful option for Alan Pardew to deploy in certain games.
For the player himself, the priority remains his club career but the opportunity to finish the season in Brazil is clearly something that is acting as a major motivation. Although he has caps for England under-21s, Ameobi says he was always keen to represent Nigeria, which is where he was born.
Ameobi says he is “excited” about the prospect of pulling on a Nigeria shirt in Brazil.
“It has been a dream this late in my career. To be given a chance to do something I cherish, represent the country of my birth, I had to jump at that,” he said.
“The manager has asked me to come on board at this late stage even after what happened at Christmas is something that I didn’t think would happen. It did, and it is great to have the opportunity and see a different environment.
“It is totally different going away with international sides than at club level. I have been at this club the whole of my career and to try and help my country reach the World Cup finals is something I never thought would happen. I am really excited.”