…Or how to solve a problem like Shola…
The Fenham Eusebio. The Pendower Pele.
What is it about the man who has divided the opinions of Newcastle fans ever since his debut in 2000?
182 starts over eleven years isn’t a great record, which, (many would say thankfully) is due to his problems with injuries and us having better forwards at the club during the time (Ferguson, Shearer, Bellamy, Carroll, Martins etc). He has struggled throughout his time at the club to hold down a place in the starting line-up, but once we were relegated he was due to become the focal point of our attack. And he started the season well, with a hat-trick against Reading being a great memory from our promotion season. But, as ever with Shola, injuries, and the partnership between Peter Lovenkrands and Andy Carroll meant that he did not get much of a look-in that season.
Whatever you can say about the lad, and a lot has been said about him over the years, he is currently the best striker we have.
And that is a damning indictment of our squad.
On occassion, he looks brilliant, but these occurrences are few and far between. His combination of size and footwork, when he plays with some aggression (which is rare), can be unplayable. I think all Newcastle fans have heard of ex-players saying that Ameobi was the best footballer we have at the club, and the frequently heard claim that he is a world beater in training.
The problem with Shola is that he never builds on the back of his good performances with a run of form. Even if he has a cracking game, he will go back to being the usual timid Shola by the next game, when we want to see him marauding around the pitch like the angry bear he can be.
What we usually see, however, is him standing in an offside position. I have no idea how someone can play the game at the top level for eleven years, earning a handsome wage to invest in an impressive hat collection, without understanding the offside rule.
And when he is not standing offside, he is either falling over or lumbering halfheartedly around the pitch without any degree of purpose.
I remember hearing Alan Shearer say that Shola could be as good as he wanted to be – the issue was not talent but desire. And that is probably 100% accurate. He can look fantastic. And he can look terrible.
So – looking ahead – aside from his goals against the mackems, how will people remember the Ameobi name after he is gone (and at 29, that could still be quite a few years)?
Maybe. But there is still hope in the form of Sammy Ameobi, Shola’s brother. Based on his ten minutes against Chelsea today (which is all I have seen of him), I would not like to get carried away. He certainly seems more enthusiastic and pacey than his brother, although he also displayed the same tendency to fall over without provocation (it must be a genetic thing). And Shola seemed to pick up his game somewhat by having Sammy on the pitch at a moment which most of been a source of great pride for both of them.
I do like Shola, and I will always wish him well, but I don’t think he is actually a very good footballer. Let’s hope the new Ameobi will leave us with less frustrating memories of the Ameobi name.
And goals against the mackems also.
What do you think of Shola?