Manchester City v Newcastle preview: Shola Ameobi speaks of frustration at failure to repeat last season's highs
Friday 29 March 2013
Shola Ameobi has admitted Newcastle's frustration at their failure to repeat last season's thrilling Barclays Premier League charge.
With eight games of the current campaign remaining, the Magpies head for Manchester City tomorrow knowing they still have work to do to ensure they remain in the top flight, something they would never have anticipated as they set out in August.
On May 6 last year, City left St James' Park with a 2-0 victory which both set up a dramatic final day and ended Newcastle's unlikely hopes of Champions League qualification.
This time around, Alan Pardew's men, having had to cope with a dreadful injury list and the demands of a Europa League campaign, head for the Etihad Stadium just six points clear of the drop zone and needing perhaps two more victories to put any lingering fears to bed.
Ameobi said: "We are here because we haven't performed as well as we should have, that's the frustrating thing, knowing that we haven't quite reached our potential this season.
"As the season has worn on, we have improved, but there's no frustration at looking over your shoulder, the frustration is not being where we know we can be and should be."
A fifth-placed finish at the end of last season was due reward for a fine campaign and the club's hierarchy, wrongly by its own admission since, decided significant strengthening during the summer was unnecessary.
But having seen the error of their ways after an alarming winter slump, they invested around £31million in January to recruit Mathieu Debuchy, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, Massadio Haidara, Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran, a spending spree which has paid early dividends.
However, 31-year-old striker Ameobi is confident there is much more to come.
He said: "It's still early doors and as well as the guys who have come in and the team that the manager has put together have done, it's only going to get better as they get used to the Premier League and get used to each other as team-mates and settle into the team and the city.
"It's early days yet still, but I know the manager is building a team that he thinks will be successful in the Premier League and challenging for European spots.
"Hopefully that's the direction we are heading in now."
Two of the new arrivals - Debuchy and Haidara - will miss out tomorrow, as will Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini, Davide Santon and Cheick Tiote with injuries taking their toll once again ahead of a weekend for which Pardew would have wanted to have his strongest possible side available.
The Magpies have not fared well on their most recent visits to the blue half of Manchester - they have lost there in each of the two seasons since they returned to the Premier League - and their chances of improving upon that record against a side still smarting from a 2-0 defeat at Everton last time out seem remote.
Ameobi said: "We have found it tough there, obviously, with the injection of money and the players they have been able to buy.
"They are a top, top side. We have found them hard to beat. We have been beaten soundly there in recent seasons. It would be nice to change that trend."
Newcastle too were beaten in their last game, 2-1 at Wigan in hugely controversial circumstances, but with next week's Europa League quarter-final trip to Benfica to come, Pardew is challenging his players to end the season in memorable style.
He said: "That's what we have got to do. There's always an opportunity in front of you and players should always remember that.
"The opportunity for success is just around the corner, as is massive disappointment as we faced at Wigan last week.
"We were all on a high and then suddenly 90 minutes later, we were all depressed for a number of reasons.
"That's what you have got to love about this game, there is always the next game."
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