Newcastle United’s Sammy Ameobi set for a big role

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SAMMY Ameobi has been backed to make an even bigger impression next season at Newcastle United, writes MILES STARFORTH.

And Shane Ferguson has been told he’ll also be more involved after impressing manager Alan Pardew.

Ameobi regularly came off the bench in the first half of the campaign before succumbing to a season-ending knee injury in a reserve game in January.

The 20-year-old – whose form led to an England Under-21 call – had hoped to return before the end of the season, but he just failed to prove his fitness in time.

However, Ameobi – handed a new long-term contract late last year in recognition for his “breakthrough” – has been told he’ll see a lot more football next season, when Newcastle’s squad will be tested by the demands of the Europa League’s group stage should the Tynesiders win their qualifier in late August.

And Pardew that could be a problem for the Premier League’s defenders, as Ameobi – who stands at 6ft 4.5in – is still growing.

“Sammy’s had one of those breakthrough seasons, to a degree,” Pardew said.

“The injury’s sort of hampered his progress, but next year’s a big year for him. He’s grown another inch, as well – he’s about 6ft 8ins!

“Sammy and Ferguson are the two from within who have really been a bonus for me.

“Shane will get more involved. Ferguson’s a player who’s knocking on the door strongly.”

H Newcastle’s pre-season plans steadily are taking shape – with the Magpies set to finalise an August 11 friendly at Cardiff City.

Newcastle are yet to confirm any warm-up fixtures.

But negotiations for United to play in the four-team Vodacom Challenge in South Africa are reportedly at an “advanced stage”.

Cardiff manager Malky Mackay said: “We have virtually agreed everything on the home friendly, and there are just a few things to finalise before that can be announced.”

Newcastle – who played three warm-up games in the USA last summer – are also understood to be in talks over a possible friendly away to Sporting Lisbon.