Ameobi aims to steer Magpies to safety
Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi is ready to play a leading role in the club's drive for Premier League safety after helping to inflict more misery on Sunderland.
The 29-year-old frontman was born in Nigeria, but raised on Tyneside, and has become something of a nemesis for the Black Cats in recent seasons with six goals in four derby clashes before yesterday's encounter at the Stadium of Light.
Ameobi did not find the back of the net on this occasion despite going close on several occasions, but it was from his 52nd-minute header that skipper Kevin Nolan flicked home the goal which looked likely to hand the visitors all three points until Asamoah Gyan snatched a 1-1 draw deep into injury-time.
The academy graduate returned from an ankle injury - the latest in a series of fitness problems to have plagued him in recent times - to lead the Newcastle line in impressive style, and he is now hoping for a clean bill of health as the club attempts to build upon the platform of 29 points from 22 games to ensure an extended stay in the top flight.
Ameobi said: "I am looking forward now, I am looking, hopefully, to stay fit now and help us get to that magical 40 points and kick on. It's a long, hard season and you are going to have injuries. It's tough when you haven't been able to train at your training ground for two months.
"But we just have to keep on working away and hopefully you have a little bit of luck on the injury front. But hopefully, I am here to stay.''
Ameobi plundered a double in the famous 5-1 demolition of Sunderland at St James' Park in October, and his presence in the reverse fixture was key in the Magpies' mission to deny Steve Bruce's men the revenge they craved.
It is a measure of how well they played on Wearside that they headed for home disappointed to be doing so with only a point to show for their efforts. That was understandable in the circumstances with Gyan's last-gasp strike owing more to good fortune than anything else, and Ameobi and his team-mates headed home reflecting upon what might have been.
The striker said: "We went into the dressing room disappointed. With the way we played over the 90 minutes, to lose it like that in the 94th minute was very disappointing. It felt like a defeat in the dressing room, which is testament to the boys and to the manager.
"We went there fully expecting to get three points regardless of if we were at home or away. We know our away form has been good this season and we put in a good performance, and with the nature of the goal, we were robbed there a little bit.''
Ameobi's sense of injustice extended to his side's goal, although he was receiving little support for his suggestion that Nolan may not have actually got a touch to his knock-down.
He said: "I am still debating whether Nobby touched it or not, but I am delighted with my contribution.''
The performance at Sunderland was all the more impressive because of the absence of Andy Carroll, Cheik Tiote and Steven Taylor through a combination of injury and suspension, and Ameobi pointed to the way the Magpies coped without the striker in particular as evidence of a depth in the squad.
He said: "It's important that we have a good squad and everyone pitches in. Andy has obviously been in terrific form this season, he has been our main talisman.
"But you don't win games with one guy, you have to have the support of everyone in the team and in the squad. Leon [Best] played and did fantastically well. He put himself about and he will score goals. Unfortunately, we couldn't do that on Sunday, but I am sure while Andy is out, whoever comes in will do a good job for us.''