IT WAS a game marked by supporters demanding change. Out with the old, in with the new.
The ferocity of the protests left everyone at St James’ Park in no doubt that Newcastle United’s fans want something to give.
They will get their wish. There will be change. But perhaps not the change they are seeking. While the supporters were calling for the heads of Alan Pardew and Mike Ashley, the probability is that change will come in personnel on the pitch, not in the directors’ box.
On Saturday, Loic Remy and Shola Ameobi led the line in Newcastle’s 3-0 win over Cardiff City.
There is a very high chance neither will take to the pitch in a black and white jersey next season. Remy, on loan from Queens Park Rangers, will be off in the summer, his destination yet to be decided, indeed he was a spectator at Arsenal’s home win over West Bromwich Albion yesterday.
And Ameobi’s contract runs out in the summer, unlikely to be replaced amid the club’s insistence on investing in the future rather than a 32-year-old striker.
It was quite fitting, then, that Ameobi – alongside Remy – was among the goalscorers in the game that relegated Cardiff to the Championship, for it could be the last time he takes the plaudits of the St James’ Park crowd.
The circumstances, perhaps, could have been different. Ameobi’s goal in the first half came amid fevered chanting against the regime, in a game where scores of fans walked out on the hour mark and 69 minutes as part of an orchestrated protest against the regime.
But the goal – and the win – was a moment for Ameobi to cherish.
“It’s been an emotional three-four months,” admitted the striker, who harbours hopes of receiving a call-up to Nigeria’s World Cup squad this summer. “Not having the best of runs to be running down my contract, I’d have liked to be finishing off a little different.
“I’ve had a chance to play the last home games, and it’s been a joy, it’s something I’ve really cherished. I’ve been fighting all season to get in the team and play here, so to do that and score here has been great for me.
“I’ve still got a few years left in me, so never say never in this game. My contract’s up but nothing has been discussed yet, so I’m still hopeful something can happen, if it doesn’t I move on. I’ve enjoyed every minute of my time here.
“It’s been tough at times, we’ve had ups and downs but on the whole the fans have been terrific. For them to stay behind like they did, despite how tough it was, shows how much they care and that’s something I’ll never forget.
“I’m not one for sentiment, really. For me, I feel blessed to have done this. I’ve been a lucky boy to have played this long for my hometown team. There’s no tears here, I’ve been blessed by Newcastle.
“I owe this club everything I have. It’s a great moment for me to see how much it has grown over the years, to be a part of it as well.”
Ameobi nodded home in the 18th minute before Remy and then Steven Taylor added late goals to put the gloss on the win, as well as ending a nightmare six-game losing streak.
“It was a great way to sign off at home,” said Ameobi. “After a difficult period, we wanted to make sure as a group of players that the fans know we are still in this season. As much as people say we’re not. When you cross that white line you do everything you can.
“Has it hurt? Of course it has. For your professional pride as well. When people say you haven’t given everything you can, and you don’t care, it does hurt. As a group of players, we wanted to show the fans that our season isn’t over, we had a massive game because Cardiff were fighting for their lives. We had to be sure we were on our mettle and I think we showed that.
“I’ve played in tough conditions here, and I’m talking personally, not for the team. I have experience of that. A lot of players haven’t. For me, we showed a lot of character, against a team who had come to win. They threw everything at us so it’s great to get a clean sheet. We’ve been shipping a lot of goals as a team, and as a squad. We haven’t been good enough and we had to put that right. I’m delighted we were able to get that win.”
Ameobi’s goal had arrived after a spell of pressure from the hosts, with Mathieu Debuchy going close twice in as many minutes, both chances kept out by David Marshall.
Moussa Sissoko hit the post on 22 minutes, before Cardiff woke from their slumbers and began to attack.
Wilfried Zaha, on loan from Manchester United, burst into life by having three attacks on goal in the space of five minutes, but that was as good as it got for the Bluebirds.
After the interval, Cardiff could not get out of the blocks, and Newcastle were happy to sit back, but meanwhile in the stands, sitting was the last thing on the supporters’ minds.
The first walk-out on 60 minutes saw a smattering of supporters leaving the ground, but the 69-minute exodus was a lot more noticeable. There were no massive banks of grey seats exposed, but those who decided to leave had made their point.
Krul denied Kenwyne Jones on 76 minutes before Aron Gunnarsson’s effort was blocked by Fabricio Coloccini seconds later, while at the other end, Remy’s shot was blocked.
Results elsewhere had conspired against Cardiff, and the Magpies put the final nails in their coffin when Remy slotted home after Cheik Tiote’s cross was deflected into his path and substitute Taylor completed the scoring, heading past Marshall after substitute Dan Gosling’s cross fell to the centre-half.
Ameobi called for perspective from supporters who chose to protest on Saturday, as the curtain falls on a season in which Newcastle actually improved on their record from a year previous.
“We need to look at the bigger picture,” said the striker. I know the manager is. If you look at the teams ahead of us, with the money spent, it’s not as bad as it seems. Yes, we’ve lost a few games, yes we’re disappointed, there’s no way we try to lose six games in a row. But we have to look at the season as a whole, try and reflect, and be better next season. I said that a few weeks ago. We need to improve as players and improve as a squad, and hopefully we can do that.”