Newcastle United’s Pardew hails Ameobi’s bout of Africa

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NEWCASTLE striker Shola Ameobi can combine playing for club and country this season, according to manager Alan Pardew, writes MILES STARFORTH.

The striker made his competitive debut for in-form Nigeria over the weekend.

And Ameobi, a late substitute in the 2-0 win over Malawi, is expected to again feature in tomorrow night’s friendly against Burkina Faso.

The 31-year-old’s long career at St James’s Park looked to be at a crossroads in the summer after a season on the fringes.

But Newcastle’s failures in the summer transfer window mean Ameobi finds himself central to Pardew’s plans this season.

He hit form in pre-season, and started the Magpies’ 1-0 win over Fulham last month.

Despite concerns for the potential for injuries to a player who has had a number of long spells on the sidelines in his career, Pardew feels Ameobi’s new international career has energised him.

“We moan about players going out on international duty, but in this particular occasion, it’s done us a favour,” Pardew said.

“He’s in good shape. I think he fancies a little bit of the World Cup, and we’re the beneficiaries of that.

“Sometimes players need a boost. We talk about moving on to different clubs. But he’s still our player.

“The biggest thing we’ve had is a new lease of life in him from that international. He’s got a little sparkle in his eye from the Nigeria situation.”

Ameobi wasn’t involved in Nigeria’s victorious Africa Cup of Nations campaign early this year because of a clause in his Newcastle contract.

Speaking while on international duty, he has told of his “regret” at missing the tournament. “Obviously, it is a regret that I couldn’t make it,” said Ameobi.

Nigeria have won their group and face a two-match play-off for a place at next summer’s World Cup finals.