Shola Ameobi set for prolonged run in NUFC team

Alan Pardew admits he has never seen Shola Ameobi play better and has promised the striker an extended run in the side as a reward

Newcastle United's Shola Ameobi
Newcastle United's Shola Ameobi

Alan Pardew has promised Shola Ameobi an extended run in the Newcastle United side as reward for the veteran striker’s recent performances.

The manager admitted that Saturday’s first-half display in the 2-1 win over Norwich City may have been the best he had ever seen the 32-year-old play.

Despite not scoring himself, Ameobi was a huge influence on the victory and has guaranteed his place in the starting line-up for this Saturday’s home match against West Bromwich Albion. And he will do so with the manager’s praise ringing in his ears. Pardew said: “I have always said that Shola gets himself up for the big games like the derby and probably in the past this has been the type of game where he has let himself down a little bit and lost his place.

“He won’t be losing his place next week, that’s for sure. He really did play well. I am not quite sure if it is the best I have ever seen him. But I think he is probably in a happier place in terms of where he is after the Nigeria call-up.

“It is like a new horizon for him, it has given him a lift and after the career he has had suddenly to get that international opportunity and for a tournament like that to open up to you is certain to give you a boost. The way we set up at present seems to suit Shola, but his performances are nothing to do with me, they are down to him. He is training well.

“He has a World Cup to play in first but if he does well in that he might be president of Nigeria.” Pardew insisted that he was never going to close the door on Ameobi playing for the country of his birth and believes his involvement with Nigeria will be a huge benefit to Newcastle.

Ameobi does seem to have a new lease of life and no matter the reason, this is his best spell in two seasons.

Pardew said: “It could not have worked out any better for us.

“He just needs to try and break into that Nigeria team now and with performances like that he will go a long way towards doing that.

“It is like anything in life – when things are going well, you just have an extra spring in your step and that is understandable. It could not happen to a nicer guy. We are delighted for him.

“Any manager, and Chris Hughton will tell you this, anyone who has worked with Shola will tell you he is a super lad.

“He is intelligent, bright and he is a really important person in the dressing room, even without playing football.

“He has had a lot of competition here, maybe one or two bad injuries, and when you are up against Alan Shearer you have a bit of a problem and perhaps he has paid a price for his loyalty in a way.

“But he is getting his rewards now he has that little bit of extra experience, his motivation in the dressing room is very high in terms of what he gives and that goes a little bit unnoticed.

“I really miss him on match days when he is not there.”

Saturday was a huge win, particularly as Pardew has so many players away on international duty.

He said: “We only had a two-day turnaround and I must admit we looked tired second half, especially Yohan Cabaye, but we will get a bit of rest now.

The focus now is on this period because it really is the nuts and bolts of this league.

“Between now and the end of January is really when it all happens.”

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