SHOLA Ameobi’s “cementing” his place in Newcastle United’s starting XI – by proving his not just the man for the big occasion
Ameobi was superb in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Norwich City.
And his performance at St James’s Park came just five days after his scored a memorable goal for World Cup-bound Nigeria.
Long-serving Ameobi has started Newcastle’s last three Premier League games, and United manager Alan Pardew feels he’s more than justified his selection ahead of Hatem Ben Arfa and Papiss Demba Cisse, even though he has not found the net.
“I say to him ‘I’m sticking you in in front of Hatem and Papiss - you’ve got to justify my shout’,” Pardew said.
“And he did that, and more. It was one of his best performances for me.”
Speaking on the eve of the Norwich game, Pardew said he felt a lack of “consistency” had previously held Ameobi back in his club career.
“He’s cementing his place in the team,” added Pardew.
“It’s these games in which he hasn’t been terrific over the years.
“He’s lost his place in these games. In the big games, he’s always done well. It’s these games where you want him to give you that eight or nine out of 10, and he did that. So fair play to him.”
The demands of international football, and the travelling involved, can drain players, but Pardew believes Ameobi’s blossoming Nigeria career has energised him at club level.
“I think the Nigeria thing has definitely given him a lift,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Norwich manager Chris Hughton worked with Ameobi during his time in charge at St James’s Park.
“He’s a very, very good player,” said Hughton. “He allows Newcastle to be a bit more direct in their play.
“And of course in (Loic) Remy next to him, he’s got somebody as good as there is at the moment at running into the spaces behind.
“Shola’s continuing to do well, and I’m really delighted for him (with the World Cup) at the end of the season, because certainly at this stage of his career, it’ll be a wonderful moment for him.”