Long-time Canary transfer target Shola Ameobi has finally broken his summer silence – and asked for the powers-that-be at Newcastle not to price him out of a move.
The 26-year-old – sufficiently out in the cold this summer that he wasn't even given a squad number initially – has found himself back in Kevin Keegan's thinking after Newcastle's traditional glut of injuries left the Magpies boss with little or no alternative but to turn to Lee Clark's one-time trainee at Walker Central Boys Club.
Having picked up a slight hamstring strain in United's 1-0 tour defeat by Hertha Berlin ten days ago, Ameobi returned to full-time training again yesterday and in an interview with The Times called on the club's executive director Dennis Wise – the man charged with over-seeing the club's transfer dealings by owner Mike Ashley – to respect his eight years service and let him get away to rebuild his playing career.
“I hope it will not be the case that I get priced out of a move,” Ameobi told The Times.
“If the club don't want me, they know that I've been a faithful servant, so, in a perfect world, being allowed to leave for a reasonable price would happen. But in football you never know, so I'm just keeping my fingers crossed and working hard.”
The Newcastle Chronicle tonight confirmed that Ameobi was back in training and with both Mark Viduka and Andy Carroll ruled out of Newcastle's Premiership opener against champions Manchester United on Sunday, he could well be in with a shout of making a start alongside Obefami Martins.
“Shola will be back in full training this week after his hamstring injury,” Keegan told the Chronicle. “It is not as bad as we thought when he came off in the first game in Majorca. He has started light training and will be back this week.”
The irony is, of course, that City boss Glenn Roeder has given every indication this week that he has moved on elsewhere; that a player he said would 'blitz' the Championship is no longer top of his wish-list after Newcastle refused to play ball price-wise.
Tired of banging his head against that particular brick wall, the Canary chief appears to have turned his attention abroad. Not that that has proved any easier as Roeder again suggested that the club concerned was guilty of breaking promises to the player concerned.
Given that said player had also 'done well' for his club this weekend, that automatically ruled out Ameobi who was sat somewhere in a treatment room on Tyneside.
Ipswich Town, of course, were reported to have had a deal done earlier this summer at the ?3.5 million mark; a similar price was always quoted alongside Stoke City's name should Ameobi have made last season's loan switch permanent. In the end, neither party appeared to fancy it.
West Bromwich Albion were the other club to join his list of admirers; they, at least, had the prospect of Premiership football on offer. Once again, however, a move never materialised and should Michael Owen come through a behind-closed-doors practice match this week, Ameobi could yet return to being no more than a spare part on Tyneside.
“The uncertainty isn't difficult to deal with,” said Ameobi in The Times.
“We have to be professional. If Newcastle decide they want to keep me, I'm not going to moan about it.
“I've been patient for a few years and it's been frustrating, but you have to be professional. I'm a footballer, I need to make sure my body's right and that I'm in the right frame of mind.”
The feeling was that if anyone could make the player tick it would be a combination of Roeder and Clark; the City chief did, after all, preside over Ameobi's best run of Premiership starts and goals when he was in charge at St James'.
His relationship with Geordie hero Clark stretches back even further to when the latter was coaching the former at their local Lads Club. It was those strong, emotional ties that always made the Canaries favourite for his signature – if the price was ever right.
It would now appear that Wise was never prepared to budge from his asking price, leaving Ameobi to ponder where and when he was ever going to revive his stalled footballing career.
“I've always said that I want to play football,” he said. “Newcastle were my team when I grew up and that's who I want to play for, but football comes first for me.”
He hadn't wholly closed the door on a return to favour in front of the Gallowgate, but it would be a sign of desperate times on Tyneside if Keegan had little or no option but to place his hopes on a player Wise, Ashley and Co were all set to bundle out of the door this summer.
“If regular football doesn't happen, I'll have to go somewhere else,” Ameobi told The Times.
“But I'm still hoping I can get a chance here. It's up to me to try and force my way into the team. I've done that in pre-season and it's been nice to be back in with the first team and with the lads.”