Shola Ameobi

By Anthony Marshall - Newcastle United Managing Editor

 

Life is good right now for Shola Ameobi.

A starting spot in United's last two Barclays Premier League fixtures has coincided with victories over high-flying Chelsea and Tottenham.

The big striker then headed off on international duty with Nigeria, with his country first qualifying for next summer's World Cup before Ameobi grabbed a goal and an assist in a friendly draw with Italy a couple of days later.

The 32-year-old tends to walk around Newcastle's Benton-based Training Centre with a smile on his face at all times, but that grin has been even more prominent over the past few weeks.

And who can blame him?

For Ameobi, who has five international caps to his name since making his debut just over a year ago, believes his late burst onto the international scene has helped win his place back in the Magpies' line-up.

"It's been a rollercoaster of a ride," the Magpies' Academy product told nufc.co.uk on his return to Tyneside earlier this week.

"The fact it's come so late in my career has been a welcome addition and given me a lot of confidence.

"To potentially be involved in the World Cup next summer gives me a lot of impetus and determination to make sure I'm fit and playing well for my club between now and the end of the season.

"You always hold on to a dream but realistically it didn't seem likely, so to be given this chance by the manager Stephen Keshi, is a dream come true.

"I'm loving every minute of it, trying to enjoy it for what it is, and hopefully I can take that confidence onto the pitch with Newcastle as well, and have good form for both club and country."

After four goals in pre-season, Ameobi played a part in a number of Newcastle's early matches before being sidelined by injury for a number of weeks.

However he has battled back to regain his place up front and, judging by his recent performances, is determined not to let that opportunity pass him by.

"It was a difficult start to the season for me, being injured for a month," he explained.

"I felt I'd had a great pre-season, felt fit and strong, and so to then be out injured was tough for me, mentally.

"But I've worked hard and thankfully the manager has given me a chance in the side in recent weeks.

"I'm not one who's going to take that lightly - I'm always going to go in there and do everything I can to give myself a fighting chance of staying in the side.

"I feel like I've done that and hopefully I've helped the team pick up the results we have.

"We've been very together in the last few games and hard to beat, much like when we finished fifth.

"In my opinion, we've been a little bit too expansive and open in recent months, and leaked too many goals. But now we are a solid unit and we have to take that focus, drive and determination into these important home games which are coming up."

While Ameobi has provided the power in United's final third, Loic Remy has undoubtedly provided the pace, with the Frenchman netting his seventh goal of the season at White Hart Lane last time out.

The pair have already struck up a promising partnership, and Ameobi believes his teammate could go on to be one of the greats at St. James' Park.

"Loic is a fantastic player, isn't he?" said Ameobi.

"He's very easy to play alongside and great to watch.

"He is very gifted and understands the game very well. I'm fortunate to have played alongside some great strikers over the years and he's right up there."

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