The people of Newcastle have seen many famous traditions come and go during the past century but the unthinkable has finally happened on Tyneside. After the disappearance of the coal mines and the loss of the shipyards, yet another institution has inexplicably fallen by the wayside.
On Saturday, Newcastle United's match-day programme failed to list a No 9 and, at a stroke, the history books had been rewritten. Albert Shepherd, Hughie Gallacher and Jackie Milburn would have been turning in their graves; Malcolm Macdonald and Alan Shearer sighing with disbelief that their former employers had failed to find a suitable incumbent for the famous old shirt.
But Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle manager, is confident he can revive the unwritten rule that St James' Park must be home to a No9 capable of achieving 20 goals a season and the status of genuine Geordie icon.
"I am looking for a striker to play off Shola Ameobi and I think I have found one," Roeder said in the wake of his team's workmanlike Premiership victory against Wigan Athletic. "There is so much grass behind the back lines in English football that you need to find someone with searing pace and I think we have done that. We are close to signing one or two like that."
Internazionale's Obafemi Martins remains near the top of Roeder's wish-list - and was reportedly in Newcastle yesterday - but the sooner the club extends the long line of celebrated No9s the better. Ameobi may have scored his third goal in five competitive fixtures this season, with the second-half winner against Wigan, but United's sole fit forward desperately requires support.
"I know there's a lot of added pressure to score goals with Alan retired, Michael [Owen] out injured and a lack of strikers at the club," said Ameobi. "But I'm revelling in that pressure.
"I have always wanted to lead the Newcastle United line," he added. "I wake up thinking 'goals, goals, goals' and it's all I have in my mind day and night."
Ameobi was also thinking assists on Saturday when he expertly provided Scott Parker with the simple headed opportunity which gave Newcastle the opening goal after 38 minutes.
Lee McCulloch equalised 14 minutes after the restart but Ameobi demonstrated his predatory instinct to turn home Charles N'Zogbia's deflected shot five minutes later. "This season Shola will do something that will blow us all away because he has excellent technical ability as well as strength," Roeder said.
Wigan, fielding six new signings, deserved more from this opening-day fixture but the club's manager, Paul Jewell, blamed the referee Martin Atkinson, rather than his own team's profligacy, for a disappointing result.
"Everyone who watched the game will have their own opinion about whether we got the rub of the green from the referee," Jewell said. "But we were not going to get anything out of that match, let's get that right."
Goals: Parker (38) 1-0; McCulloch (59) 1-1; Ameobi (64) 2-1.
Newcastle United (4-5-1): Given; Carr, Moore (Taylor, h-t), Bramble, Babayaro; Solano, Parker, Butt (N'Zogbia, 16), Emre, Duff; Ameobi (Luque, 76). Substitutes not used: Harper (gk), Milner.
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Kirkland; Boyce, De Zeeuw, Hall, Baines; Valencia (Connolly, 89), Scharner, Landzaat (Kavanagh, 87), McCulloch; Heskey, Camara. Substitutes not used: Pollitt (gk), Jackson, Wright.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Booked: Newcastle Luque; Wigan Heskey, Valencia.
Man of the match: Ameobi.
Attendance: 51, 569.
* Newcastle could be the subject of a takeover battle. A Jersey-based investment company, Belgravia Group, have reportedly made an approach to buy the club. A spokesman for the group said they saw the possible acquisition of Newcastle as "an attractive opportunity" and added: "It is at an early stage and nothing is finalised."Reuse content