Shola Forgets How Good He Was At 21
I know he has become a bit of a cult/supersub figure these days but in his youth he looked a real class prospect, when I used to watch him play for the England Under 21s he more often than not looked the best player in the team.
He lost his way at Newcastle and wasn’t served best by the club when he kept on playing to help them out, despite being desperate for an operation, an was maybe never the same since.
We all want to believe that the players at St.James’ Park are going to be world beaters, especially the young ones, but sometimes you have to have a bit of a reality check.
Shola had this to say about the challenge the younger players had in last night’s match against Bordeaux;
“I don’t envy them. The style of play, the quality of the teams you play in Europe, obviously you are playing the top teams in every league.
To come in as a young lad when there so many young guys in there, it’s always going to be difficult and that inexperience showed.
We really wanted to come here, regardless of what team was playing, to win the game and the young lads were distraught in the changing room because they obviously want to make an impression”.
Yes we didn’t have our big hitters playing and there were a number of younger players but to talk of ‘playing the top teams’…well Bordeaux aren’t a top team, they are a decent team and they had their reserves playing as well.
Go back ten years and a certain Shola Ameobi was playing in the Nou Camp and scoring against Barcelona in the Champions League, he was only 21 and indeed younger than both Shane Ferguson and Nile Ranger.
Indeed following that goalscoring performance against Barca, Shola led the line in the next Champions League game away against Bayer Leverkusen, the German team only months earlier had lost the Champions League final against Real Madrid.
In a must win match, Shola and his fellow twenty one year old strike partner, Lomana LuaLua, were excellent against the Champions League runners-up and scored all three goals in a 3-1 win, two of them for Shola.
This is not having a pop at our younger players, more a reality check and a plea for them to not have great expectations/pressure put on them. The truth is though that Shola Ameobi had played over a hundred times for Newcastle before he turned 22.
Shola was doing it at the sharp end when he was only 21 and even key players of the time like Dyer and Bellamy were only 23 when Newcastle were rampaging around Europe in the Champions League.
To be good enough to come through and play at the top end of the Premier League is a massive challenge and our younger players have a massive journey on their hands to do so, with the exception of Davide Santon who I think is exceptional.
Last night in Bordeaux suggested that they are still on their learning curve, let’s hope one or two of them get to the end of it.
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