There was much deliberation in the North-east yesterday morning – ironically at Sunderland's Academy of Light before Martin O'Neill's press briefing – about how many forwards Shola Ameobi had seen off in his 11 years at Newcastle.
The official figure, presented by the club itself, came out at 22. That however, included three players – Wayne Routledge, Fabrice Pancrate and Nacho Gonzalez – who were most definitely wingers, first and foremost.
Similarly, the list started after his debut, not when Ameobi had actually signed, in which case a certain Alan Shearer should have been added. The blurring of the amount could not hide the enormity of challenges the unassuming Ameobi has seen off.
From Patrick Kluivert to Craig Bellamy, from Michael Owen to Mark Viduka, the Nigerian-born Geordie has taken the arrival of a major player in his lengthy stride.
The latest news then, that he had another bit of in-house competition in the shape of Papiss Cissé, signed on Tuesday for £8m, brought laughter and candid realism.
"I'll have a good guess (at how many it's been)," said Ameobi. "Twenty-eight, nearly as many as managers I've had, ha ha, ha. I know it's a lot. Am I worried? Do you know what? You would think that in a way it would disappoint me but really, it doesn't.
"We've had numerous strikers come in since I have been here and it doesn't change for me. You've got to fight for places at every club and it's no different here. The thing for me, it makes you work harder.
"When a top player comes in, you know you have to fight harder and do better to get a place in the team and that can only bode well for the club. I have always seen it that way. Obviously it is another player that you have to fight against but every player in every position has that and it is no different for myself, so I always try and look at it from the bigger picture. Hopefully, it can only bode well for the club.
"To be honest, I don't look past a two-week margin. I just tend to focus on the next two games. That's how I look at it. If you've got the shirt, I know that the manager is faithful to his team if they are doing well for him. He has shown that all season."
Ameobi added: "Some managers say stuff and don't really stick to it but we feel this manager gives everyone a chance, and the squad is great because you know if you get your chance and do well, it is more than likely you will keep your place."Reuse content