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Ameobi rejects comparisons with relegation campaign
SHOLA Ameobi has rejected comparisons between the current campaign and Newcastle's relegation season in 2008-09, and insisted the squad remains as unified as ever despite recent events.
Four seasons ago, Newcastle crashed out of the Premier League despite boasting a squad packed with established international talent.
With morale at rock bottom and too many players pursuing their own agendas, a succession of crises shook the Magpies in the second half of the season and hastened the club's demise.
The last few weeks have seen Newcastle saddled with the 'crisis club' tag once again, with Demba Ba's departure, Fabricio Coloccini's desire to return to Argentina and Loic Remy's decision to choose Loftus Road ahead of Tyneside contributing to a mounting sense of chaos.
Is history repeating itself? Not according to Ameobi, who is adamant it is wrong to draw parallels with one of the blackest periods in Newcastle's recent history.
"It's definitely not the same at all," said the striker, who will hope to be involved as the Magpies entertain Reading in a crucial relegation clash this afternoon. "Back then, there was a lot of discord.
"Last time, I remember thinking there were a lot of players who didn't really want to be here and that does not bode well for any team. Certainly, the players we have here now have a better character and better temperament and hopefully that can really help us.
"In the last year or so, there have been a lot of games when we've been struggling but we've managed to pull it out of the hat which is really good from our point of view. It is important that we have that sort of mentality in the second half of the season.
"It is important that the people who are here now want to play for the club and I know that when they pull on that black and white shirt, they have that feeling that we are all in this together and that wasn't the case before. There are no players in this current squad who are contrary to that."
Even Coloccini? The skipper and his representatives are due to hold talks with Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias next week in which he will outline his continued desire to return to his native Argentina.
The Magpies hierarchy are aware of the defender's personal issues and sympathetic to his plight. However, they are not about to lose a £10m asset for nothing, meaning Coloccini will almost certainly be told to remain on Tyneside until at least the summer.
Hatem Ben Arfa has talked about potentially leaving Newcastle for Paris St Germain in the future, while both Tim Krul and Davide Santon have been strongly linked with possible moves to Italy.
So much uncertainty is hardly helpful, but Ameobi insists there is no chance of anyone's commitment wavering as Newcastle attempt to haul themselves away from the bottom three.
"When we lose games, I can see that everyone in this squad is hurting," he said. "You can see it in their faces. It's tough because when you have had some decent performances, we have been in the changing room for about half an hour after the game discussing it because we care. It means so much to the players.
"Four years ago, it wasn't like that. Many of them knew they would be leaving at the end of the season and I think that is the difference. That is certainly the feeling I got back then. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't as if they did not want to win and it's important to state that but afterwards, they'd be smiling again within a few minutes.
"This season, you can see that every single player in the dressing room is prepared to knuckle down. They all want to really help this club, although obviously it is going to be very difficult to do what we did last season. But we are all still together and right behind the manager."
That sense of unity could be crucial in the final four months of the campaign if the negative headlines continue to mount.
As the longest-serving player in Newcastle's current match-day squad, Ameobi has experienced more than enough turmoil to appreciate just how quickly a crisis can escalate in a footballing environment as febrile as the one that exists on Tyneside.
The 'goldfish bowl' environment might be something of a clichÃ©, but it is a clichÃ© rooted in reality, meaning it is imperative the club's players stick together if events continue to conspire against them.
"We are a one-club city and a club our fans take an awful lot of pride in," said Ameobi. "It is what they live for and they want to hear about their team. When things off the pitch aren't done as they should be, the headlines are there.
"It's the only club in the town so it is always going to come under very close scrutiny. I think in recent seasons, it's been good to know it's what we have done on the pitch which people are talking about, not off it. As a player, that is what you want. We want to see things written about what we do on the pitch rather than off it.
"The manager says it is important that we have a positive changing room, that the attitude in there is right. It is all too easy to feel sorry for yourself at times in this game but nothing comes from that."The players who are here can only get ourselves out of the situation that we are in and unless you have a go and stay positive and try and achieve that, you are not going to do anything."