SAMMY Ameobi’s come a long way in a short space of time.
A few short months ago Ameobi turned out against Blyth Spartans in front of a couple of thousand fans at St James’s Park.
Fast forward to Saturday, and the teenager was starting against the Premier League leaders, Manchester City, at a sold-out Etihad Stadium with a worldwide TV audience of millions.
Always willing to take people on, Ameobi caught the eye against Blyth back in May.
That night assistant manager John Carver and first-team coach Steve Stone were avidly watching from the directors’ box.
They gave manager Alan Pardew a glowing report of the role he played in a comfortable 4-0 win for Newcastle.
It was his performance against the non-league side which saw him promoted to the first-team squad for the penultimate game of last season at Stamford Bridge.
Ameobi went on to make his Premier League debut against Chelsea, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The 19-year-old’s talent, and potential, has never been in question.
But it’s his attitude and application which has undoubtedly played the biggest part in his elevation from reserve-team player to senior squad member.
United start face Ashington in this season’s Senior Cup next week.
And if any of Willie Donachie’s reserve team are to follow Ameobi into Pardew’s squad, they need treat every game they play in black and white, be it against Blyth, Blackburn or Bolton, like a cup final.
In my 11 years of reporting on Newcastle, I’ve lost count of the bright young players who have fallen by the wayside.
Ironically, that number includes some of the most talented to have risen through the ranks.
Talent, of course, is nothing if it isn’t backed up by hard work and dedication.
Thankfully, Ameobi, now an England Under-21 international, has the ideal mentor, his elder brother Shola.
While his career has been hampered by a succession of injuries, it hasn’t been hampered by off-the-field headlines of the kind which have blighted other careers.
Professionalism, clearly, runs in the family.
And long after the final whistle at the Etihad Stadium, Ameobi emerged from the tunnel to speak to the media.
Polite and articulate, he was as fine ambassador for the club off the pitch as he was on it.
Ameobi, playing on the right side of midfield, had the better of left-back Gael Clichy a couple of times.
Work still needs to be done on the defensive and positional side of his game when United aren’t in possession.
But with the ball at his feet, he takes some stopping, as Clichy will testify.