NEWCASTLE United striker Shola Ameobi has returned to training early after fracturing his cheekbone.
And manager Alan Pardew has paid tribute to his willingness to risk a setback by lacing up his boots this afternoon.
Ameobi looks set to make his comeback against Everton at St James’s Park.
The 29-year-old has been fitted with a protective mask to hasten his return from the injury, suffered after being inadvertently caught by Fulham’s Steve Sidwell in the Newcastle’s 1-0 defeat at Craven Cottage.
That came just two days after Andy Carroll was sold to Liverpool, leaving Pardew with just two fit senior strikers – Peter Lovenkrands and Leon Best – and teenager Nile Ranger to lead the line.
Pardew admits the mask isn’t ideal – it restricts Ameobi’s line of sight – but he’s just grateful to have him available.
“In football, some players do play through pain – sometimes people’s Achilles might be feeling thick,” said Pardew.
“They go through it all the time, so a little bit of pain in terms of pressure around Shola’s face is not going to hurt him.
“The most important thing for him will be visually, because he cannot see deep to the sides of him, which is uncomfortable.
“The mask causes him some problems in terms of pain, especially when he is heading. However, he looks like he has come to terms with that.”
Ameobi has scored seven goals this season from 21 appearances – taking his career tally for the club he has served all his career to 68.