Ameobi steps out of his big brother's shadow

Sammy amazed at rapid progress at Newcastle but admits he has got a 'lot to learn from Shola'

For every young player successfully making his way in the game, there comes a moment when it resonates that he is more than just a footballer, but equally something of a public property, cast into the spotlight as the latest, albeit at this stage bit-part, character in the all-consuming soap opera that is the Premier League.

For Sammy Ameobi, it arrived recently, as he tucked into peri-peri chicken at an establishment that has become synonymous with his peers. "I was asked for an autograph at Nando's the other day," the engaging Newcastle forward revealed, his smile a mix of bemusement and recognition that he is no longer merely Shola's kid brother, but a blossoming talent in his own right.

"I'm getting recognised more regularly now," the teenager added. This, as if to underline the centrality of the sport in the national psyche, after just a single top-flight start, and a handful of substitute appearances for his hometown club. It's a tally he hopes to add to today in place of the suspended Jonas Gutierrez at home to Chelsea. The 19-year-old added: "Hopefully, I'm handling it quite well, even though I'm not one to spend a lot of my spare time in and around the town, I'm more of a private person, I like hanging out at home."

His occasional dalliances with Nando's aside, Ameobi is no identikit footballer. Far from it. Down to earth and articulate, modest to the point of self-deprecation, this is an individual who, after joining the club as a trainee three years ago in the wake of gaining 11 GCSEs, won't fritter away a glorious career opportunity. Any urge to over-celebrate should the hosts increase Chelsea's current woes with a victory to stretch their eight-month unbeaten home record will be tempered by the knowledge that for the tight-knit Ameobi family, Sunday morning means one thing: church, at 10.30am, sharp.

"If I'm not up and around, my parents will be knocking on my bedroom door, waking me up," Ameobi, who still lives at the family home in Fenham, barely a mile from St James' Park, added. "My faith's important to me. It's not just Shola that's been a massive influence on me, so has my family and my religion. They've all hopefully helped keep my feet on the ground.

"It could have been easy to get carried away with things, but that's not the way I was raised, so it won't be the way I live my life. To be honest, it's not what I expected at all in terms of my progress into the side. I thought the process would be a lot slower than it actually has. It's been amazing, and it's up to me to make the most of my opportunity."

The reward of a new three-and-a-half-year contract, in addition to an England Under-21 debut, arrived around the same time as his first League start. Conversely, the arrest of two teenagers for allegedly posting racist abuse on his Twitter account also gave Ameobi a glimpse into the unwanted consequences of footballing celebrity: "It's part of the whole package," he added: "You have to be able to deal with the good things and the bad."

Ameobi hesitates when asked if he's now on level terms with big brother Shola, 10 years his senior. It's a pertinent query, given his full debut arrived at Manchester City last month while his older sibling looked on from the bench. "I guess, but I've got a lot to learn to reach his standard." He smiled: "I'd never dare take the mickey for me being in the team and him not. I know my place in the family! Saying that, I've framed the teamsheet from that game!"

In one of football's quirks, a full home debut could arrive facing the club against who Shola took his Newcastle bow a dozen years ago, that appearance memorable for his refusal to back down in a confrontation with pint-sized pugilist Dennis Wise. "I was there to see Shola then, and it had a lasting impression on me to try and follow in his footsteps one day. I was only in year four at school, so it's a good job it was an afternoon game. Had it been an evening kick-off, it would probably have been past my bed-time."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test