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Highs And Lows For Shola

NUFC Logo Newcastle United FC

In a wide-ranging exclusive interview, Shola Ameobi reflects on a "frustrating" defeat and his international debut for Nigeria

By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter

A week of highs and lows for Shola Ameobi ended with a disappointing home defeat to Swansea City to take the gloss off his international debut for Nigeria in midweek, and the experienced frontman admitted that Newcastle are currently going through a "rough time."

The Magpies were determined to bounce back after last weekend's loss to West Ham, but a slick Swans outfit deservedly ran out 2-1 winners at St. James' Park.

Ironically, the visitors' opener came during the Magpies' best spell of the game: the beginning of the second half, following Ameobi's introduction as a half-time substitute when United piled on the pressure and looked certain to score with one of several opportunities.

Had they done so, the 31-year-old felt Alan Pardew's side would have gone on to win the game rather than slipping to a second successive reversal on home soil. 

"I think it's a different ball game," he ruefully told nufc.co.uk in an exclusive post-match interview. "Once they get their goal, they made it hard for us as a team to break them down but even then we created a lot of chances and unfortunately it was the final ball or the ball just didn't fell our way.

"You have periods like this as a club where you have a rough time but we know that we've got enough quality and if we keep on battling hard and keep on working hard, which is essential for any team, that we'll get the breaks and the victories will come.

"Off the back of the loss last week, we wanted to make a good impression with a positive result today, but unfortunately that obviously hasn't happened.

"I thought we were on top of the game when they scored but goals change games and unfortunately we couldn't come back this time. The second goal really killed us because even after the first goal we thought we could still get back into the game.

"But to give such a sloppy goal away is just frustrating for the whole team and I know for the fans as well. But we need to keep on plugging away. We're putting our heart and soul into it and when you do that sometimes you don't get that luck. But hopefully that'll change in the next couple of weeks with the games we've got coming."

The first goal came after an uncharacteristic error from Tim Krul, with the goalkeeper's poor clearance falling straight to Pablo Hernandez whose left-wing cross was headed home by Michu.

But Krul has won his side numerous points over the last couple of campaigns and Ameobi refused to point the finger at the Dutchman.

"It was a bad kick but we still should defend the ball better I think," he said.

"When somebody makes a mistake, you look to your team-mates to help you out and unfortunately we couldn't do that today. It was a catalogue of errors and even the second goal, the fact that the guy was wide open - we know how hard we're working and to give soft goals like that away is just very frustrating."

It was the first time since Pardew's appointment in December 2010 that Newcastle have lost consecutive matches at St. James' Park, with United having been notoriously difficult to beat on their own ground until this month.

"We spoke before the game about that and certainly that's something that we have to get back to," Ameobi said.

"That's where we get most of our points and it's important that we as a team are solid, especially at the back, and not leaking as many goals as we have been. I think that's been a problem - to have to score three goals to win a game is going to be difficult for any team so we have to make sure we get back to basics and work hard and defend well as a team and build from there.

"We're always going to score goals - we just have to make sure we're solid as a side."

On a more positive note, however, Ameobi spoke for the first time about his first cap for Nigeria, which came in a 3-1 friendly win against Venezuela in Miami.

It has been a long time coming for the Zaria-born Geordie, who played for England at under-21 level earlier in his career, but it was worth the wait as he set up the final goal.

"I was very, very, very proud," he admitted. "It's obviously something I've been working towards for a while now - it seems like an age - but I was delighted to get the call-up and to finally represent the country I was born in.

"It's the country my mother and father are from and it's just fantastic. As a player, you want to play at the very highest level and I don't take it for granted. For me to be able to do that at this stage of my career is a very proud moment for me.

"It's the pinnacle to play for your country and it's something I've been working hard towards and hoping and praying the chance would come. Thankfully it has and I enjoyed it tremendously."

And even more than 4,000 miles away, Ameobi was supported at the Marlins Park Baseball Stadium by a handful of Newcastle supporters who made themselves heard.

"It was incredible," their hero beamed. "It just seems that everywhere you turn, there's Newcastle fans singing and shouting. I could hear them in the stadium and after the game, and it's just great to have that sort of support. It's just testament to the fans that we have at this Club.

"Wherever you go all over the world, you seem to get them so it was a great added bonus for me."

Click here to buy a Newcastle United shirt with Ameobi's name and number on the back