It's The Brugges Brothers
Written by Newcastle Utd
Newcastle United FC
Shola and Sammy Ameobi speak exclusively to nufc.co.uk about brotherhood, Brugges and more as they prepare to start together for the first time on Thursday
History will be made on Thursday night as Shola and Sammy Ameobi become the first brothers to start a major game for Newcastle United in 60 years.
Alan Pardew confirmed at his pre-match press conference that the pair will both be in his first XI against Club Brugge - meaning they will match the feat of George and Ted Robledo who played together with some success for the Magpies in the 1950s.
Shola, 31, was born in Nigeria but raised in Newcastle and made his first-team bow in 2000 against Chelsea. Sammy, who is 20, was born in the city and made his senior bow - also against Chelsea - in 2011. Shola was on the pitch that day too, but this will be the first time they've been fielded from the start.
The pair spoke exclusively to DAN KING on the eve of what promises to be a memorable evening in Belgium about growing up together, what it means to represent the club and their aim of emulating the Robledos once again and bringing silverware to Tyneside.
How proud a night will Thursday be for you and for your family?
Sammy: It's great and I'm really looking forward to it. It'll be an honour to play alongside Shola; obviously I've looked up to him for so long and he's been a great player, and I'm glad I'm going to get the opportunity to start with him tomorrow.
I'm really looking forward to it and I know all the family will be round to watch. When I was growing up, he's been the one we all looked up to. He's been my inspiration, he's been my competition and my family have always been there for me through thick and thin. So it'll be amazing to start the game together and hopefully we'll both get on the scoresheet!
Shola: We're both excited for each other and our parents are going to be really happy about it. Let's hope we can gel well together and help the team.
At the end of the day, that's the most important thing: making sure the team really play well. If we can do well in that then that's fantastic.
But the family will all be watching. They're excited and I never thought I would have the chance to play with my little brother so it's a great occasion for them all and I'm sure they'll be cheering us on.
Sammy, how much did Shola help you when you were growing up and trying to break through at Newcastle?
When I was younger he always said that I had great ability and there were ways that I could manifest that. One of the main things that he always stressed was hard work.
He's always done that all the way through, ever since I've been growing up, and it's been a great help. I'm really thankful for it because it's got me to where I am today: playing alongside him.
Shola: You could see it very early. He had all the tricks - every trick that came, he could do straight away so he always had the ability. It was whether or not he could put it together and get the whole package and I think he's proving that he's got that.
Obviously he's got a long way to go but we're really excited, I know the family are and the management here, about his prospects. Hopefully you can see a bit of that come out tomorrow night.
Have you grown closer since you've been together in the first-team squad?
Sammy: We were quite close anyway but because we've been spending quite a lot of time together we've managed to get closer, which is good.
It's good for the team as well - because we're so close, we know each other inside out.
Shola: Being in and around him all the time, I'm getting more chance to speak to him and to help him along the path he's on. It's always a pleasure when I see him doing what he does out there on the pitch because he's got tremendous ability and it's up to me to make sure he gets some help to get the most out of what he's got.
It's a real pleasure for me - although I don't know if that's the case for him! But it's a real pleasure to watch him day in, day out as he improves and gives his all because he's going to be a great asset for this club.
It's not the first time you've played together of course. Shola started when Sammy made his debut at Chelsea in May 2011 and your careers have dovetailed quite nicely, haven't they?
Sammy: Yeah they have, and I'm looking forward to it. Hopefully he'll still be around for a while and there'll be many other opportunities to play alongside him but I'm looking forward to starting with him tomorrow night. It should be fun.
For all of the talk of Shola, over the last few weeks you've been making a name for yourself since you came back from injury, Sammy. Is the Europa League a good chance for you to show what you can do?
It's a great opportunity. I've said time and time again that not just me but for all the fringe players who are trying to get into the team, it's a great chance to show that they're good enough to be in the team.
I've had an opportunity and I feel that I've been taking it in the last few games so hopefully I'll continue to do that and get myself in that starting line-up.
I'm looking forward to it - hopefully I can have a good game and we'll get the win.
And Shola, Europe has always been a stage that you've thrived on...
These sort of nights are what you remember: European nights. Like you say, I've scored a number of goals in this competition so the more games we can have, hopefully the more chance I've got of bettering my record.
I've always been happy playing in Europe, it suits my style and my game and hopefully tomorrow night I can add to that tally of mine.
Club Brugge gave us a tough game at St. James' Park last month but they've struggled for form since then and parted ways with their manager. A win would guarantee a place in the next round but what kind of challenge are you expecting?
Sammy: We've got a great support - there will be thousands of people over there supporting us so that's going to help us.
But they're a top side, great passers of the ball, and it's not going to be easy, obviously away from home as well. But we're just going to have to get over that and bring the three points home.
We're just going to have to outwork them, get in their faces and not let them play. I think they'll find it uncomfortable if we get in their faces so that's what we plan to do.
Shola: We know how hard we had to work a couple of weeks ago at home against this side. They're a good side so it's going to be a tough order but every game we've played this season in Europe, we've won or drawn and we want to keep that run going.
We know it's important to build confidence in this competition. It goes a long way. It's going to be our toughest test, I believe, but there's no reason why we can't go there and get a result. That's the aim: to get a positive result from the game whether that be a win or a draw, which wouldn't be a bad result for us.
It always has a bearing when a manager leaves a football club. It's not a very nice period to go through as a player so they'll be going through that right now and it's important that we take advantage of that.
Things have transpired since we last played them but we've still got the same players and we know they're a real danger so we have to make sure that we're on our guard and we put our best foot forward tomorrow night.
How big an achievement would it be if we could progress with two games to spare?
Shola: This is a great adventure and we don't want it to end. We want to go as deep as we can in this tournament. It's a learning curve for us but we believe we've got a squad of players that can match most teams in this competition.
It's a great step for us, it's what we wanted at the start of the group stage - to get through - and hopefully if we do that tomorrow night we can continue to build on that for the next couple of games and look forward to the next stage.
But we have to make sure that we do our job first tomorrow night.
When you start together on Thursday, you'll be following in the footsteps of the Robeldo brothers. Ultimately, they went on to win trophies together for Newcastle - is that your aim too?
Shola: That's always been the ultimate goal. Every season, we're trying to give our all to win a competition whether it be the Europa League, the FA Cup or the League Cup. It's something that we know the fans desperately want and this is another opportunity for us to do that.
The longer we can stay in it, the more chance we've got of doing that so we've got to make sure that we keep on this good run that we're on. Winning breeds confidence so if we can keep on winning then I know that we have a group here who can go very far in this competition.
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