SHOLA Ameobi has admitted his career is one of unfulfilled ambitions - but Newcastle United's current best performing striker intends to make sure this season does not add to that list.
Ameobi has spent ten years fighting to prove people wrong at St James’ Park, suffering at various times with injuries, loss of form and the unwanted pressure of being a scapegoat whenever things went badly on the pitch.
But the Nigerian-born Geordie has been in fantastic form this season with eight goals in 10 appearances despite a long-term lay-off with a stress fracture on his foot, as he looks to fire the Magpies back into the Premier League.
With Peter Lovenkrands allowed to return to Denmark following the death of his father on Friday night, Ameobi will almost certainly start alongside Andy Carroll against West Bromwich Albion tonight with Newcastle setting their sights on extending their lead at the top of the Championship.
And, after so many frustrations over the last decade, Ameobi wants this story to have a happy ending.
He said: “Five years ago I had big ambitions. I wanted to be Alan Shearer’s successor, wear the number nine shirt, play for England, go to the World Cup – so no my career is not fulfilled. I accept that.
“Five or six years, ago if someone said this would be my career, I would be disappointed. I would be first to admit I have not fulfilled my potential or scaled the heights I thought I would.
“That is down to me, you can talk about injuries and make all sorts or excuses, but the harsh truth is I have not reached the heights I set myself. But I have just turned 28 and there is still time.
“Anything can happen in football, I have learnt that over the last ten years. It is something I am trying to put right now. Still setting myself tough goals.
“I have always said if I am playing on a consistent basis, I will always score goals and that is the key, getting into a position where the manager is playing me week in, week out.”
His fragile fitness means Ameobi – whose importance has increased with Jermaine Beckford’s decision to remain at Leeds United – has been protected at times by Hughton, but he remains his first-choice striker in the big games and it is that sort of faith which extracts the best from him.
He said: “There is gap between the two leagues, a big one. I believe I can still score goals in Premier League, I have done, look at the records.
“When I had regular runs, I was averaging a goal every other game.
“It is not a question of do I think I can do it, I know I can because I have done in it. And I have to say that when a manager does really believe in me, it helps. I am definitely someone who needs that. It brings the best out of me.
“My best times were with managers who rated me. Sir Bobby Robson rated me and often told me that. Glenn Roeder, Joe Kinnear as well. It gives you great confidence knowing the manager has faith.
“But when you think you need to score a goal to keep your place, or that if you haven’t scored in 60 minutes you are coming off, that is hard.
“I’ve been out for four months, but Chris Hughton has faith and it was great to hear him call me his number one striker.”
And it is not just the manager who has supported him this season as the Newcastle fans who have, at times, turned on the Academy graduate with venom have also unwaveringly backed him.
He added: “I have had it all from them, they have sung my name, booed me, cheered me, jeered me. It’s been a love hate relationship at times, I understand their frustrations.
“I know I have not reached my potential and they do as well. They are allowed to voice their opinion. I understand that.
“There have been many in the past come here and not been able to deal with it.
“I think I have been strong enough to deal with it. Yes, of course, it has hurt at times – but I am still here.
“It makes me more determined. They know I care about this club, grown to love this club and it will always be close to my heart.”