Club Focus – Newcastle United – Local boy steps up

Newcastle made light of their off-field turmoil as they moved up to third in the Championship table with a comprehensive 3-0 victory over Reading. Although the league table is almost irrelevant so early in the season, they will still be delighted with their start after so much doom-mongering in the summer. Newcastle has picked up four points from two games, both against teams expected to challenge in the Championship. The Magpies’ well documented problems in the boardroom appear to have created a team spirit and togetherness in the dressing room that was so lacking last season. Caretaker manager Chris Hughton’s biggest concern will be holding on to key players as they continue to be linked with moves away from the club.

Enigmatic striker Shola Ameobi provided the spark for Newcastle as he netted his first ever hat-trick for his boyhood team. Ameobi has had a mixed time with Newcastle ever since breaking into the first team in 2000. Capable of producing both the sublime and the ridiculous he has often flattered to deceive. Ameobi has looked like being on his way out of St James’ Park on several occasions but has somehow managed to remain on Tyneside. This season could prove to be the making of the 27-year-old as for the first time in his career he has chief responsibility as the senior striker. With the chances of a new striker arriving looking slim, Ameobi must shoulder the burden and lead the Newcastle forward-line. With his strength and power he has all the attributes to be a top striker – now he must continue scoring goals on a regular basis.

Ameobi dedicated his hat-trick to his former mentor Sir Bobby Robson – the man who gave Shola his chance in the first team. Speaking after the game he said: “Considering the man we were remembering today, I think its only fitting I dedicate my goals to Sir Bobby. He was a great influence in my career and for me it was a fantastic way to repay him.” Sir Bobby would no doubt have been pleased with his home team’s display as they produced an attacking performance that has rarely been seen since his days in the managerial hot-seat. Newcastle were mostly dominant and created some good opportunities, particularly from wide positions.

From a local hero to a local villain, as owner Mike Ashley made an appearance in the directors’ box on Saturday. Accompanying him was Barry Moat, the local businessman attempting to purchase the club from Ashley. By sitting next to each other and appearing to be getting on well the pair showed a solidarity that could lead to hope that a deal can be agreed soon. If Moat can persuade the banks to lend him the money to buy Newcastle United, the takeover should happen. If not then Ashley will stay on for another season at least, with the odds increasingly shortening on Joe Kinnear returning to manage the club.

Another interested spectator in the St James’ Park director’s box was former Arsenal and Portsmouth defender Sol Campbell. With Newcastle desperately short on numbers and experience in their squad a deal could be possible. The latest player to head out of the ever-revolving exit door should be midfielder Damien Duff. A fee of £4m has been agreed with Fulham and the player travelled south for a medical at the weekend. Duff has been hampered by injuries at Newcastle and has struggled to produce the form he showed for Chelsea and Blackburn. Defenders Sebastien Bassong and Habib Beye have also recently left the club and more could follow in the exodus. Frustrating winger Jonas Gutierrez has been linked with Portsmouth and Steven Taylor could join Everton if Joleon Lescott leaves the Merseysiders. Despite Taylor being one of Newcastle’s most profitable assets it would be a big blow to lose the defender – he is one of the few players at the club who bleeds black-and-white, and is easily the best defender remaining. One player to actually join Newcastle is Manchester United defender Danny Simpson, on a six-month loan deal. The right-back represents Newcastle’s first signing of the summer and also how far they have fallen – borrowing a reserve player from one of their former rivals.

Sheffield Wednesday travel to Newcastle on Wednesday night for a league match. The Owls have drawn their opening two league games and the Magpies will be hoping to reproduce their weekend form and collect three more points.

Newcastle United Club Focus

Pre-season woe – July 29
Fans say goodbye to a hero – August 5
Bridge over troubled water? – August 12
Local boy steps up – August 18

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