SHOLA AMEOBI believes he still has a big part to play at Newcastle United despite the arrival of Papiss Cisse in January.
During his time at Newcastle - apart from a short loan spell at Stoke City in 2008, he has spent his entire career on Tyneside - Ameobi has had to contend with several strikers coming through the doors at St James' Park.
For that reason, the striker, now 30, has struggled to cement a regular starting place for the Magpies, making just under 200 appearances in almost 11 years at the club.
Now, given the form of summer signing Demba Ba, who has 16 goals to his name this season, and the arrival of £9m Cisse, Ameobi once again finds himself down the pecking order on Tyneside.
But having penned a two-year extension to his existing deal in August, which will keep him at the club until 2014, Ameobi remains confident he still has a part to play under Alan Pardew.
"I wouldn't have signed a contract at the start of the season if I wasn't going to be happy with fighting for a place," Ameobi said, speaking at Walker Central FC to mark the start of the construction of their new all-weather pitch.
"I know the manager wants competition for places and I understood that when I signed my contract, it can only be good for us and for the manager that players are fighting for places. You have to up your game and be at your best to get in the team and that can only bode well for Newcastle.
"It's great to have a guy of his (Cisse) quality and obviously we hope he can improve on what he did against Aston Villa.
"We're in sixth position and I know a lot of people wouldn't have put us in that place at this stage, but there's a lot of hard work and effort gone in to what we've done this year. We've got to be focused and keep our heads level."
Newcastle sit in sixth after Saturday's 5-0 defeat at the hands of high-flying Tottenham. Despite the result Pardew's men remain genuine contenders to finish in the top six and Ameobi believes competition for places is a must if the Magpies are going to challenge at the top.
And with an attacking line-up of Ba, Cisse, Ameobi, Leon Best and Peter Lovenkrands, the 30-year-old thinks Pardew is beginning to assemble a squad capable of doing so.
He said: "You need a big squad if you're going to challenge the top four or five.
"Look at the likes of Man United and Man City and the players they have on the bench, it's a long season and the manager knows that.
"He's trying to build a squad in his own way and feels can do the best it can and fight for places and to finish as high up as we can.
"He understands we need a big squad to challenge, not just in the league, but in the cups and hopefully in Europe over the coming seasons.
"He's doing his job, he knows there's always need for improvement and hopefully with the players he's added and those he will add we can do that.
"At the start of the year we had our objectives as a team and those are exactly the same now regardless of where we are at. We know as a club and a squad we want to finish as high as possible, as long as we give everything we have on a Saturday afternoon.
"You deserve where you finish and we know that. It's great at the moment, but there's a long way to go. There's a lot of good teams behind us so we just have to focus on the next few games and see where it takes us."
Newcastle are without a game this weekend due to their FA Cup exit at the hands of Brighton, but Pardew's men are back in action a week on Saturday when Wolves visit St James' Park.
A win could see the Tynesiders move up as high as fourth and Ameobi admits exciting times are ahead for the club if they can maintain their form.
"This year, there's a togetherness and there has been for the last couple of years. Everyone is pulling in the same direction and you need that in any successful team and that's what we've got.
"Once you add the quality you'll win games. It's great to be a part of, it's exciting times for Newcastle so hopefully we can keep our heads and keep focused until the end of the season."