“If Sammy scores, we’re on the pitch…There’s only two Ameobis, two Ameobis..”!
The welcome return of winger-cum-striker Sammy Ameobi back from his loan spell at Bolton Wanderers injected hope into Newcastle after the club picked up just 3 points from 9 available over the festive period. Rafa Benitez has watched the red-hot form of the younger brother of Geordie legend Shola – 4 goals in 16 games this season already – with great interest & with on-loan Chelsea winger Christian Atsu away for the African Nations Cup, Ameobi the younger could be prove a real asset as the Rafalution gathers pace. Sammy scored more away goals in the 2014/5 season helping keep Newcastle stay in the top flight than Moussa Sissoko and Gini Wijnaldum managed in the 2015/6 season of relegation and will flourish if given a chance on Tyneside.
After a 1-0 reverse at Blackburn away, Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle United stand 2nd in The EFL Championship table one game into 2017 with 52 points and with 21 games left to play, two points behind leaders Brighton who have a game in hand, yet have scored the most goals and won the most games in England.
If not for some very dubious games referee-wise – the Nottingham Forest double-sending off, the 2 or 3 penalties denied The Magpies at Fulham on the opening day & the recent Sheffield Wednesday hacking farce, Newcastle would be streets ahead of the rest in pole position.
The opening day farce broadcast live on SKY was especially interesting as it meant all bets on overwhelming favourites for the title Newcastle – even for the club to go the whole season unbeaten at a liability to SKY Bet and others larger than Leicester’s title ‘win’ in 2015/6 – were lost overnight.
Its a pattern of anti-Newcastle bias among the refereeing officials of England that pushed The Magpies – as the club with the most game-changing bad decisions against them in The Premier League – to relegation (see table below & related Sun article) – that unchecked could cost the club a deserved EFL Championship.
Despite being cheated out of the points in at least three games – a nine-point swing – arguably more, the Magpies are still on track for automatic promotion despite the extremely late banning of influential midfielder JonJo Shelvey fully 6 weeks after an alleged incident of racial abuse and just after Ian Holloway had declared him “The Championship’s greatest ever player.”
With Shelvey nearing the end of his ban and January transfer recruits in the shape of a midfield alternative to him from loan deals for Tom Cleverly from Everton, or Chelsea’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek to the purchase of Montepellier’s Ryan Bodebouz and another striker, Newcastle will end the transfer window in the strongest position yet in 2016/7.
Newcastle head to Birmingham City’s St Andrew’s stadium in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup with Rafa Benitez seeking to add to his 2006 FA Cup success with Liverpool, having beaten the Blues, now managed by Gianfranco Zola rather than Gary Rowett, whose side The Magpies thrashed 4-0 a month ago.
As ever, Newcastle must not rely on the match officials providing a level playing field as two year ago, the following excellent goal was wrongly chalked off after some great football played by the black in whites in John Carver’s very first game in charge following Alan Pardew’s departure to Crystal Palace.
Rafa Benitez has urged positivity ahead of the tie against Birmingham as Newcastle seek to put their festive blip behind them and march on to the next round of The Cup and beyond as they did in The EFL Cup reaching the Quarter-Final stage before bowing out to Hull. Only a fool would bet against the Rafalution rolling on…