SAMMY Ameobi is a towering talent – on that there is a broad consensus. What is not clear just yet is how far his ability is going to take him in a Newcastle United shirt.
Of all the players to emerge from the talent factory in Little Benton of late, Ameobi is the one who Newcastle believe possesses the technique and temperament to push for the first-team squad.
The next phase of his development will decide whether those predictions are borne out.
It just so happens it is the most difficult part – a fact that has not been helped by the difficulties the team has encountered as Ameobi starts to push for regular first-team football.
As the player himself eloquently admits, the days when he was viewed as a curiosity or a cult hero thrown on to disrupt oppositions defences should be drawing to a close.
He is now being measured by how far he can effect a game, which means his value to the team is scrutinised in the same way it would be for an established star like Yohan Cabaye or Hatem Ben Arfa.
They are heady standards and many fall away at this point.
The challenge for Ameobi as he prepares for another start in Bordeaux tonight is to make sure his star does not fade during this crucial period.
“The young players are here for the long haul in my opinion,” he tells The Journal.
“It’s been great to get my opportunity to play but I can’t lie, it feels slightly different to how it did three weeks ago.
“Back then I was getting my chance and everyone was on a high.
“I was playing well and this and that but we’ve hit a wall so it’s been tough for young players like myself and Shane Ferguson to get past the realisation we’re not new kids on the block anymore.
“When we were young kids we could make mistakes and no-one came down on us but now we’re starting to learn we have to affect games and be an effective part of the squad.
“It is a big part of the transition and a really tough thing to get your head round.
“We have to be as good as a Yohan or a Hatem or a Demba to stay in this team and now we have to take the responsibility on like they have. We can’t look to them always.
“To be honest, I embrace the challenge. You have to.
“In myself I feel I’m past the stage of being the kid with no expectations they send on to run at defences but now I have to prove that week in, week out.
“I want to be a player who makes a difference.”
Ameobi’s form might have been a shade indifferent in recent games – a fact he acknowledged on his Twitter account after a recent European engagement with Maritimo – but the kid certainly has talent.
England under-21 honours prove that, as do a series of glittering performances in the Europa League. A long-term contract was a testament to the expectations that those in charge of Newcastle have.
Good performances can soon be forgotten though, and Ameobi knows he must roll with the punches as United’s season experiences its ups and downs.
He admitted: “When the team is doing well, it’s a lot easier to come in.
“When you’re not doing so well the confidence isn’t as high and it’s a lot harder.
“I can’t complain about that, it’s football and if you want to get the top it’s the kind of thing that we have to put up with it.
“You just need to be strong and push past that negative stage.
“Growing up here as a Newcastle fan, I already kind of knew what was expected.
“It means that much more to me and I’ve only just come in. I’m hoping for better things now.”
A naturally ebullient character, Ameobi admits he has had to tone down his public proclamations during Newcastle’s recent lean run.
His Twitter account has offered an interesting insight into his personal life but the younger Ameobi brother has toned down recent postings for fear of prompting criticism from disenchanted supporters.
That is not to suggest backing hasn’t been forthcoming from those fans, just that he doesn’t want it to appear that he is enjoying life too much while professional circumstances are not ideal.
Ameobi added: “You sort of just have to mind your own business, keep your head down when things aren’t going well. At a club like Newcastle, football means everything to the fans and it won’t do if they see you messing around and this and that.
“I don’t want to Tweet anything which will get people’s backs up so I just want to keep it mellow and I just try to keep a low profile.
“Having said that, the backing has been brilliant. The fans have been great and they have been behind us.
“You saw we got a standing ovation at Stoke and that meant a lot to the players. It really did.”
The perfect way to repay their support would be to make inroads into a cup competition this season, which is something Newcastle have already done in the Europa League. United are in the last 32 but Ameobi wants the club to sign off in style.