Shola’s delight at Newcastle Utd’s progress

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SHOLA Ameobi’s rolling back the years at Newcastle United.

The striker’s set to return to the starting XI Stoke City at St James’s Park this afternoon.

Ameobi has been an influential figure on the pitch this season.

The 32-year-old has found Premier League starts hard to come by in recent campaigns.

And Ameobi, 32, went into what is the final year of his St James’s Park contract unsure if he would play regularly.

But he has made 12 appearances in all competitions so far this season, and has featured heavily in the sixth-placed club’s run of six Premier League wins from eight games.

While Ameobi is yet to find the net in the league, he has proved an able foil up front for leading scorer Loic Remy.

And Ameobi – now in his 14th first-team season at Newcastle – says he is “excited” about the direction in which the team is going ahead of the visit Stoke, the only other club he has represented in his long career.

“I’m enjoying my football – of course, it helps when you’re playing and winning,” Ameobi told the Gazette.

“I’ve been fortunate in the last couple of months to be in the team.

“Fitness-wise, I’m feeling good. I’m just excited about where we’re going as a team.

“There’s an opportunity for us to hopefully have an impact like we did a couple of years ago (when United finished fifth and qualified for Europe).”

Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa came off the bench against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park at the weekend with Newcastle leading 2-0.

And Ameobi, expected to make Nigeria’s World Cup squad after establishing himself at international, won the late penalty converted by Ben Arfa.

“When you come off the bench you want to have an impact any way you can,” he said. “We could have had a couple of goals, to be honest.

“Hatem showed what he can do, as he always does.

“I’m just delighted to be able to contribute in any shape or form.”

Ameobi felt United put in a complete performance in south London to record what was the club’s fifth away win of the season.

Reflecting on the game, he added: “It was always going to be a different game to the last couple we’d played.

“We played really well, and showed a different side to our game.

“We did brilliantly, won the battle and played our football. You won’t get too many better away performances than that.”

Ameobi – who is set for talks with the club about his future in the New Year – had a brief loan spell at Stoke late in the 2007-08 season.

n NEWCASTLE United’s fourth-round FA Youth Cup tie against derby rivals Sunderland will be played at St James’s Park on Monday, January 20th (7pm kick-off).

Twitter: @milesstarforth