Shola Ameobi definitely split opinion amongst Newcastle United fans for his overall performances but he usually stepped up to the plate against Sunderland which means that he will never be forgotten.
After 14 years at Newcastle he did leave the club in the summer and it probably was the right time to leave. There were rumours that manager Alan Pardew wanted him to stay at the club as a player-coach but this didn’t happen and the record holder for most appearances as a substitute in the Premier League will probably not get the opportunity to wear the black and white shirt again.
The 33 year old first joined Newcastle in 1997 and progressed through the youth team before making his first team debut in September 2000 against Chelsea. He went on to make 22 appearances that season as Carl Cort and Alan Shearer had injury problems and finished the campaign with two goals. Over the next few seasons he continued to play games and was very influential during the club’s Champions League campaign in the 2002-03 season, where he scored against Barcelona at the Nou Camp and twice against Bayer Leverkusen in a 3-1 win.
His early form for the club continually divided fans but his goal scoring record looked worse because a lot of his game time was from the bench. During the later stages of the 2005-06 season he became a first team regular and ended the season with six goals in 12 games. The 2006-07 season had the potential to be his best as he scored five goals in 16 appearances and began to look a constant threat but a hip injury ruled him out for the majority of the season. In the following season he struggled to get a place in the first team and joined Stoke City on loan on the 27th March 2008, playing six games and helping them gain promotion to the Premier League, however he failed to score a goal and a permanent deal could not be agreed.
When he returned to Newcastle he could not break into the first team but when he did get his chance he scored his first goal in two years in a 2-2 draw with Manchester City on 20th October 2008 and in the next game scored against Sunderland. He then went on to score his 50th goal for Newcastle in the return game with Sunderland. The club were relegated at the end of the season and Ameobi was expected to score the goals to get them promoted.
He repaid the faith shown in him by manager Chris Hughton and was named the Championship Player of the Month in August 2009, after scoring his first ever hatrick against Reading and then another in a 1-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday. An injury slowed his season but when he returned he scored even more goals and finished the season with 10 goals in 18 games.
In their first season back in the Premier League, Ameobi scored some important goals including two against Sunderland in a 5-1 win and a winner against Wigan Athletic. After the sale of Andy Carroll he became the club’s main striker. This would be the last time he was a regular starter but in the rest of his time at the club he still managed another goal against Sunderland to equalise in the 91st minute.
In his 397th and final appearance he was sent off against Liverpool. He finished with 79 goals in all competitions before joining Turkish side Gazientep on the 11th August 2014. He scored first goal for the club in a 1-1 draw with Adanaspor from the penalty spot on the 19th September.
The final word can go to Alan Pardew. “He has been an incredible servant to Newcastle United. Such loyalty and commitment in the modern game is rare and Shola was not just a great player on the pitch but a key figure off it. He is a leader of men, a great role model for our younger players.”