EUROPEAN qualification may be in sight, but Shola Ameobi insists Newcastle United’s aims are the same as they have been all season.
Sixth in the Premier League and a point behind fourth-placed Chelsea with 13 games remaining, a return to continental competition is a real possibility.
It is something that few could have imagined at the start of the season after a frugal approach in the transfer market.
Ameobi is adamant it will not distract them from their sole ambition to win as many games as possible, and see where it takes them.
“At the start of the year we had our objectives as a team and those are exactly the same now regardless of where we are,” said the 30-year-old striker. “We know as a club and a squad we want to finish as high as possible, and we will as long as we give everything we have on a Saturday afternoon.
“You deserve where you finish and we know that. It’s great at the moment, but there’s a long way to go.
“There’s a lot of good teams behind us so we just have to focus on the next few games and see where it takes us.”
Ameobi pointed to a team spirit in evidence since relegation in 2009 as the main reason Newcastle have confounded the odds this term.
“There’s a togetherness and there has been for the last couple of years,” he reflected. “Everyone is pulling in the same direction. You need that in any successful team. Once you add the quality you’ll win games.
“It’s great to be a part of, it’s exciting times for Newcastle so hopefully we can keep our heads and keep focused until the end of the season.
“The manager is putting a squad together that want to work for each other and do well and that’s all we can ask really. We’re in sixth position and I know a lot of people wouldn’t have put us in that place at this stage, but there’s a lot of hard work and effort gone into what we’ve done this year.
“We’ve got to be focused and keep our heads level.”
The club’s longest-serving outfield player watched from the sidelines at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday as £7.5m January signing Papiss Cissé made his full debut. The Senegal striker came off the bench to score against Aston Villa a week earlier.
The Spurs game was the first Ameobi, an unused substitute at White Hart Lane, has not been involved in this year. Rather than be upset, he sees it as evidence of the progress he wants to see continue if recent months are not to be a flash in the pan.
“I wouldn’t have signed a (two-year) contract at the start of the season if I wasn’t going to be happy with fighting for a place,” he argued.
“I know the manager wants competition for places and I understood that when I signed my contract, it can only be good for us and for the manager that players are fighting for places.
“You have to be at your best to get in the team and that can only bode well for Newcastle. It’s great to have a guy of Cissé’s quality and he can improve on what he did against Aston Villa.
“You need a big squad if you’re going to challenge the top four or five.
“The manager’s trying to build a squad in his own way and feels can do the best it can and fight for places to finish as high up as we can.
“He understands we need a big squad to challenge, not just in the league, but in the cups and hopefully in Europe over the coming seasons.
“He knows there’s always need for improvement and hopefully the players he’s added and those he will add can do that.”