What a difference a month makes. At the Everton game when things looked really bleak - JFK made a substitution, bringing on the outcast No23, the guy who had been deemed not good enough for the Championship with Ipswich in August, Shola Ameobi. The chant went up "If Shola scores we're on the pitch" and stewards looked around nervously at the prospect of a pitch invasion. Of course, the threatened (un)civil unrest wasn't likely to happen, as we all thought that seeing as he hadn't scored for over two years it was unlikely. Since the Everton game he's set about trying to establish a place for himself in the side and was this week voted Newcastle player of the month for October. He's scored a couple of goals and generally looked more determined than any of the other strikers at the club.
He's a JFK sort of player - in the John Fashanu mold. Big, physical, determined and of limited ability. Therein lies the problem with Shola. For years we have watched one of our own (after all he's one of only two Geordie's near the first team at the moment, I know that neither he or Taylor were born in Newcastle - but they count as Geordies) willing him to succeed, only to be let down. Some of the frustrations about Shola are that for a player who is well over 6ft he appears to be unable to jump more than 6ins off the ground. He is one of the worst headers of the ball I've seen in a black and white shirt. He also has one of the poorest first touches of a top-flight player that I've ever seen - the ball just seems to cannon off him in random directions. For example:
But, he despite all these short-comings he's a player who always gives it all for the club. His ability is limited but he perseveres when so many better paid and more talented players give up - to name a few Kluivert, Luque, and Guivarc'h spring to mind from the past and you could probably add in Viduka and EMO from the present.
I've always had a soft spot for Shola - I remember his debut against Chelsea. He came on as a sub and a certain 'hard-tackling' Chelsea midfielder decided to show this lanky new comer what the Premiership was all about and sent 'our' Shola to the turf with a crunching and illegal tackle. I can still recall Shola jumping up, bristling with indignation and squaring up to the bully - without loosing any control the stare, just said "don't mess with me, I know what I'm doing".
The name of that midfielder? - our current Executive Director (Football) Dennis Wise. Dennis you should have learned from eight years ago, don't mess with what Newcastle fans know and love....That and the fact that when they squared up to each other Shola was a good foot taller than him, much to the general hilarity of the crowd.
One final thought, I may have a soft spot for Shola, but not as much as a friend of mine - who named her cat after our No 23. That said, Shola the Cat is the most aggressive, surly, vicious feline I've ever come across. I wonder if Shola the footballer is like that? I'd doubt it, but the cat can still jump higher.