Shola Ameobi backs Wonga deal to strengthen Newcastle’s Academy

IT'S A DEAL ... Newcastle United's manager Alan Pardew, managing director Derek Llambias, founder of Wonga.com Errol Damelin and striker Shola Ameobi for photographs.
IT'S A DEAL ... Newcastle United's manager Alan Pardew, managing director Derek Llambias, founder of Wonga.com Errol Damelin and striker Shola Ameobi for photographs.

SHOLA Ameobi is confident Wonga.com’s investment can help Newcastle United – by unearthing the next Shola Ameobi.

The club yesterday revealed the payday loans firm will sponsor its shirts from next season.

HOMEGROWN TALENT ... Newcastle's Shola Ameobi.

HOMEGROWN TALENT ... Newcastle's Shola Ameobi.

And Wonga – which has faced criticism for its high interest rates – has also paid for the naming rights to Newcastle’s home, which will again be known as St James’s Park after its unpopular rebranding as the Sports Direct Arena.

United’s Academy, which is hoping to achieve Category One status, will also benefit from a £1.5m cash injection.

Long-serving Ameobi, 30, pictured, came out of the club’s youth system 12 years ago.

And the striker’s confident Newcastle’s new backers – who will replace Virgin Money – are right for the club, despite the uneasiness felt by some fans at the nature of their business.

“For me, speaking to the guys from Wonga, I sensed that they want to help turn this club into a club which brings through youth,” Ameobi told the Gazette.

“That’s so important – it’s something I’ve benefited from, and it’s important we have that sustainability in bringing players through.

“Being a product of the Academy has been massive for myself.

“I think the manager has said that’s the basis of any good club – to have the youth coming through.

“That’s the only way you’re going to sustain a club without going and paying millions and millions. The fans love to see homegrown talent coming through.”

Ameobi, a boyhood United fan, also welcomed the renaming of the stadium.

“It’s going to be named St James’s Park again, and that’s massive,” he added.

“It just goes to show the type of guys that are sponsoring us.

“They want to make sure the needs of the club are met, and the fans play a big part in what we’re about. It’s fantastic news.

“Speaking to them, that’s certainly what my first impression is – they want to make sure it’s a fans’ club.

“They want to see the whole community brought into that.

“It’s fantastic news, and hopefully they can start seeing the fruits of their labours sooner rather than later.”

Newcastle’s managing director Derek Llambias wouldn’t reveal the sum that Wonga are paying for sponsorship.

But he insisted the deal was the “biggest” in the club’s history.

And Ameobi – whose St James’s Park career has spanned many ups and downs – believes the stability off the field can only help he and his team-mates on the pitch.

“Obviously, they’ve got a plan, and stipulated that from the start,” said Ameobi. “This is another feather in their cap.

“Like I said, it’s so important, and I think the manager and owner understands that.

“They’ve brought stability to the club, and now they want to take the next step.

“The chairman realises we need to make sure that we have players coming through the ranks.

“Wonga themselves want to have a big part to play in making sure our Academy is second to none in the country.

“I just hope we see the fruits of that sooner rather than later.

“This was a turbulent club for a while. We can all see it’s important that the club’s stabilised - that’s the only way you can breed success.

“You’re going to improve year on year. Our results, since getting relegated, have got better and better.

“We have a manager who the fans and the owner believe in. He and his staff have eight-year contracts.

“Nothing really can change – we can just concentrate on performing on the pitch.”

Twitter: @milesstarforth