Shola Ameobi's younger brother in line to be the best
The delivery was deadpan. "He has the ability to surpass anything I've done in the game, without a shadow of a doubt."
Shola Ameobi has had a career; 20 caps for England Under-21 (with seven goals), 245 Premier League appearances, 74 goals in all competitions for Newcastle United. At the start of this month, at the age of 31, he finally gave up on hopes of a full call from Roy Hodgson and this week will enter the international arena with Nigeria, the country where he was born and lived until he was five. In any language, it has been decent. Stop-start sometimes, but decent.
When the conversation turned to his brother, Sammy, 11 years younger and still as thin as a beanpole, he was unequivocal. His brother's career will be better. "I want him to surpass me. He definitely can."
Sammy Ameobi was, he thinks, 11, when he was diagnosed with asthma. He was already catching the eye by then, because the initial diagnosis made him doubt he could make it as a footballer.
"At first I was a bit scared, I didn't know all the top footballers who have asthma," said Sammy. "I thought this might be something that would deflect me from my dreams, but Shola and my family said it's only you who can sort this out. I was young when I first had it. I still use an inhaler now. It is something I can't prevent. I have it and I am not going to let that be an excuse."
At the Newcastle training ground on Friday, with Shola, Sammy and middle brother, Tomi, who now plays in Iceland with Grindavik, all there together, the Newcastle manager Alan Pardew was glowing in his praise. "Sammy has something special in his feet," he said. "There aren't too many you can say that about. He needs to understand the game and if he grasps that, he can be a really good player for us.
"The brothers are the best well brought-up kids you could imagine. They are a model for any family about how to bring up your sons. They are so well mannered, so giving and caring. There is no chance of any kid here getting carried away. We have some rottweillers at the club who wouldn't allow it, but you do get it at some clubs."
Sammy Ameobi was 16 when he joined Newcastle's academy, in July 2008. He made his reserve-team debut two months later. At the end of the 2010-11 season, he made his first start for the first team, alongside Shola. On Thursday, in Bruges, the pair became the first brothers to start a major competitive game for Newcastle in 60 years. Shola has proffered advice to his brother since before he followed his path to Newcastle. Now 20-year-old Sammy believes he can out-do Shola.
"Shola's decided to play for Nigeria but England would be my choice," said Sammy, speaking after Newcastle's EA Sports FIFA 13 Pro Player Challenge. "I was born here. I've come through the ranks and want to get into that first team. It's a competition between us and I'd like to surpass him in whatever I can. I can do that by getting into the England team.
"It's not an easy decision. It's an honour to be able to play for more than one country. My mam and dad are very proud but they have brought us up not to think we're better than anyone else.
"Especially in my case, a young player on the rise, it can go to your head. I've been taught that's not the way to go. If I stepped out of line Shola and my parents would come after me at the same time!"
Shola has been a big, powerful centre forward. Sammy is a quick-footed winger. For Sammy, there could now be a role in this Newcastle team. "I'm not getting ahead of myself," he added. "I am past that point where I am the new kid on the block. I want to get to the top and make a difference in games."
Newcastle United v West Ham is today, kick-off 3pm
Sammy Ameobi was speaking at the Newcastle EA SPORTS FIFA 13 Pro Player Challenge. Sammy appears in FIFA 13 Ultimate Team where you can build and manage your own Ultimate Team. Sign up now via PlayStation Network and Xbox Live. Visit www.ea.com/uk/football
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