Shola Ameobi out to make striker’s role his own

SHOLA Ameobi has four games left to stake his claim for a starting place against Arsenal.

And the striker’s determined to make the most of his time on the field in pre-season.

Ameobi is hoping to start against Orlando City tomorrow, having made his seasonal debut in Wednesday night’s goalless draw against Sporting Kansas City.

The 29-year-old replaced the injured Hatem Ben Arfa at Sporting Livestrong Park, but he and his team-mates found chances hard to come by in Kansas.

“No matter who it’s against, if you’re wearing a Newcastle shirt, you want to do your best,” said long-serving Ameobi.

“I just want to start the season in the right shape, and I’m working hard on my fitness.

“When it comes to August and Arsenal, you want to be ready, and that’s what these games are here for.

“People say the results don’t really matter, but as a professional, when you cross the white line, you want to do your best.”

Ameobi has played all over Europe with Newcastle, but never in the United States.

Manager Alan Pardew hit back at criticism of the club’s tour of the country, highlighting the facilities of their hosts.

Ameobi went on: “You can learn a lot out here.

“The manager has said that too, when you look at the quality of Kansas’s training ground and stadium. It was unbelievable.

“It’s one of the reasons we are out here. If you can see a better way of doing it that’s the idea. That’s why we are out here.

“You can take a lot of lessons with the way the Americans do things in terms of organisation and the technology side of it. It makes the difference.

“If it can make us stronger, then great. Whatever ideas they have that can make Newcastle United stronger, we need to know.

“The downsides are the jetlag and different time zones but we are coping quite well.”

However, Ameobi conceded the travelling, and the intense heat, has been gruelling for him and his colleagues.

“We are enjoying it, but there have been a lot of flights for us,” he said.

“From the point of the players, it’s pre-season, and we’re just putting the required work in.

The fact that we’re training so hard, and are building up our fitness is good.

“The next few games will get us ready for Arsenal for the opening game of the season.

“You are waking up early in the morning, but that’s how it is.”

n JOEY Barton was on target for Newcastle United’s reserves in their 2-2 draw against Hollandia yesterday.

Barton – who was denied a visa to travel with the first-team to the United States – opened the scoring against the Dutch amateur side.

Peter Beardsley’s side when on to concede two goals before Ryan Donaldson equalised 10 minutes from time.

RYAN Taylor’s tired of his Mr Versatile tag at Newcastle United.

And the utility player’s determined to finally nail down a regular starting spot at St James’s Park.

Taylor found his opportunities limited last season, when he was also hit by injury.

But the 26-year-old – who played 90 minutes against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night – has the bit between his teeth this pre-season.

And Taylor goes into tomorrow’s game against Orlando City determined to seize his opportunity, having relished playing at right-back, the position he feels is his best, at Livestrong Sporting Park.

“I’m one of those players who has been pushed here, there and everywhere in the last couple of years,” Taylor told the Gazette.

“I’ve covered in different positions, and it was nice to show the gaffer what I can do at right-back.

“I’ve got two years left on my deal, by I’m hoping come the middle of the season I’ll have shown the gaffer what I can do. I want to be here, and I want to play. (Kansas City) was a good start.

“It’s difficult for someone like me who has that label of a utility player. I want people to know me as someone who can play in a certain position.”

“I’ve got to keep working hard in pre-season, and see what comes of it.”

The Kansas City game, a goalless draw, was played in uncomfortable heat on the pitch, but Taylor was just happy to get a full game under his belt in what he concedes is a make-or-break season at United.

“It was touching 100 degrees at kick-off, and I’ve never played in that before,” said Taylor, who joined Newcastle two and a half years ago from Wigan Athletic.

“There was just no air – it was so hot! But it was a good workout. If you did one run, you had a dry mouth, but I’m sure the lads will benefits from that.

“Come the end of the game, my feet were burning and my boots were burning, but I was buzzing to get 90 minutes in the first major game in pre-season.

“To be able to try and show the gaffer what I can do at right-back was even better.”