Newcastle United: Is Shola Ameobi The Most Frustrating Footballer Alive?

He's scored in the Nou Camp and is known as The Mackem Slayer, yet he often fails to trap a bag of cement. Will the real Shola Ameobi please stand up?
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He's scored in the Nou Camp and is known as The Mackem Slayer, yet he often fails to trap a bag of cement. Will the real Shola Ameobi please stand up?

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Newcastle United: Is Shola Ameobi The Most Frustrating Footballer Alive?

After yet another truly awful display against Blackburn Rovers, I’ve been driven to ask the question which, in my opinion, is as difficult to answer as ‘Why are we here?’ ‘Why don’t planes just fall out of the sky?’ and ‘Mummy, how did I end up in your tummy?’

My question is, ‘How did Shola Ameobi make it as a professional footballer?’

Foluwashola Ameobi was born on 12th October 1981 in Zaria, Nigeria. 5 years later his family moved to Newcastle to start a new life. Young Shola soon became a regular at Walker Central Boys Club where he was spotted by Newcastle United scouts (who were presumably on glue at the time) and he was offered a place at the club’s academy.

It didn’t take him long to make an impression at the club. I assume the club staff members who were despatched to keep an eye on his progress somehow managed to time all their visits so they saw the only 5 minutes in the game where Shola looked like a World beater.

After spending a couple of years playing for the junior sides and the reserves, Shola made his debut for the Newcastle United first team on 9th September 2000 against Chelsea. Since then he’s gone on to delight and infuriate the Toon Army in equal measures on a regular basis. His goal scoring record (a goal every 5 games) isn’t as bad as some people make out, due to large chunks of his appearances coming as a substitute and a long standing hip problem which has caused him to miss large parts of some seasons. Actually, that ratio is pretty rubbish isn’t it?

After his performance against them in the 5-1 mauling last season, he became known to some sections of fans as ‘The Mackem Slayer’.

To be fair to Shola, on his day he can be absolutely unplayable at times. When we play Sunderland he ups his game to the sort of level you would expect to see from your centre forward every week. After his performance against them in the 5-1 mauling last season, he became known to some sections of fans as ‘The Mackem Slayer’. Most of the time though, he’s known simply as ‘Stroller Ameobi’ due to his usual ambling, disinterested demeanour during games.

It’s this sort of inconsistency that Newcastle fans find most infuriating about Shola. One minute you’ll see glimpses of utter brilliance (superb skills, close control and finishing to make Messi proud) but which all too often give way to endless moments of utter averageness (the close control of the Captain of the Costa Concordia and finishing that would make your average Sunday League player look like Pele).

Managers have come and gone at Newcastle and most of them have said that in training he’s one of the best strikers they’ve ever worked with. Joe Kinnear liked him so much he gave him a new 3 year contract. Alan Pardew extended that contract by another 2 years. Only Kevin Keegan saw what the fans have seen on a regular basis and farmed him out on loan to Stoke in the Championship. He played 6 times and didn’t score once, returning to Newcastle without securing a permanent deal. A proposed summer move back to the Championship with Ipswich then came a cropper due to a failed medical. Typical Shola.

During our own season in the Championship he was much more successful, and it really looked like he’d finally found his level, scoring 10 times. Sadly having missed part of the season through injury he came back looking like he should be doing much better in a side which eventually walked the league.

There’s no doubting he’s a nice guy, or that he loves the club and the fans. Off the pitch he’s given us moments where you just want to give him a hug – from the time he revealed that Sir Bobby Robson’s nickname for him was ‘Carl Cort’ to the time he called the police to his home after claiming he’d been burgled - later realising his house was just untidy and the items he’d reported stolen had simply been misplaced in the mess. Most of the time when he steps onto a pitch though the fans just want to strangle him.

A player who’s scored against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the Champions League yet couldn’t score in 6 games in the Championship for a Stoke side which he fitted into perfectly, Shola Ameobi remains an enigma. Unless something drastic happens though, I can now see him being a Newcastle United player until he retires.

That would surely make him a club legend of the most unusual sort.

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