Shola Ameobi


By Tom Easterby

 

We complete our review of the 2013/14 campaign, which saw Newcastle finish tenth in the Barclays Premier League. This week's final instalment covers April and May, which saw a poor run of defeats come to an end with an emphatic victory at St. James' Park...

 

APRIL

With Manchester United next up at St. James' Park, there looked to be no easy route back to top form.

Though it was speculated that the under-fire champions would have one eye on that week's huge Champions League quarter-final second-leg tie against Bayern Munich, it certainly didn't show on the pitch.

Juan Mata, a £37million signing from Chelsea in the January transfer window, pulled the strings all afternoon and netted the first with a brilliant, curling free-kick.

As soon as the Spaniard had whipped in that beauty, it was apparent that more were on the cards; another from Mata made it two, before Javier Hernandez and Adnan Januzaj added extra gloss to the scoreline.

Stoke City is traditionally an unwelcoming arena for visiting players, and so it proved once more on 12th April.

Erik Pieters' overhit cross beat Tim Krul's outstretched arm to give the Potters a fluke lead. And there was to be no repeat of the Boxing Day thrashing dished out by United to Mark Hughes and his team, as City held on to their slender advantage to further frustrate a toothless Magpies, who looked short on confidence and creativity.

Another team not enjoying the greatest of runs were Swansea City. Having recently parted company with their Capital One Cup-winning manager Michael Laudrup, long-serving defender Garry Monk was in charge when they travelled to Tyneside.

Shola Ameobi put Newcastle ahead, slotting past Michel Vorm, but Wilfried Bony, City's prolific record signing, headed the Welshmen level on the stroke of half-time.

And with just seconds of the contest remaining, Cheick Tiote's reckless challenge on Marvin Emnes allowed his fellow Ivorian Bony to win it with an emphatic spot-kick.

Again, teenage forward Adam Armstrong made it off the bench for a home debut, but his willing running and endeavour couldn't help peg back the Swans.

Following four successive defeats, a trip to the Emirates Stadium to face Arsenal isn't the most enticing prospect. A 3-0 defeat was probably a fair reflection of proceedings - Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud were all on target as the Gunners managed to overrun United despite spending much of the game in third gear.

With the last home game of the season against relegation-threatened Cardiff City looming, Newcastle and Alan Pardew needed points, fast.

Goal of the month

Given there was only one goal scored this month, the prize goes to Shola Ameobi for his opener against Swansea City. Though won by default, his strike gave supporters hope that the poor run of results could be coming to an end, only for Wilfried Bony's interventions to mean the wait went on.

 

MAY

Finally, a win - and a convincing one at that.

In a game which saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's Bluebirds relegated, Shola Ameobi headed United in front with what turned out to be his final goal for the Magpies in his final home game.

Late efforts from Loic Remy, also appearing in black and white for the final time, and Steven Taylor sealed a 3-0 win amidst a palpable feeling of relief at St. James' Park.

United's final day fixture at Liverpool ended in a 2-1 defeat, with Ameobi and Paul Dummett both seeing red, but a tenth-placed finish in the Barclays Premier League represented a solid, if unspectacular, season for the Magpies, with plenty of positives to take into the 2014/15 campaign.

Goal of the month

Sentiment aside, Shola Ameobi's header against Cardiff was a special moment. Not only did it give United a lead and begin the recovery from those six demoralising defeats, but it proved to be his final goal for a Club that he represented with pride, honesty and class during 14 years as a professional.

Taking in everything from the Champions League to the Championship, his Newcastle United career took in the highs of Europe and the lows of relegation, but the 32-year-old's commitment to the cause never wavered as he became a mainstay of the squad under eight different managers.

A true professional in every sense of the word, Shola departed Tyneside at the end of May with the best wishes of all at the Club.