SHOLA Ameobi says the pressure’s off Newcastle United as the club attempts to gatecrash the Champions League party.
Alan Pardew’s in-form side are level with fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur, and two points ahead of Chelsea, in the Premier League with five games left to play.
While the teams around them have lost their heads in recent weeks, Newcastle have kept their’s and recorded five successive victories, most recently beating Bolton Wanderers 2-0 at St James’s Park on Monday.
With Spurs seemingly in freefall, the odds have tumbled on United qualifying for the Champions League.
Ameobi scored against Barcelona at the Nou Camp in Newcastle’s last campaign in the competition in 2002/03, and another crack at Europe’s elite would be a dream for the striker.
Only Alan Shearer has scored more European goals than Ameobi, who would love the opportunity to add to his 12-goal tally.
However, for the moment, the 30-year-old isn’t looking beyond the visit of Stoke City to St James’s Park on April 21.
“There are a lot of very good teams above us who probably think they deserve the Champions League spot more than we do,” said Ameobi.
“It’s who can get out of these next five games on top. It’s about who can manage their expectations, and go out and execute what they have to execute.
“We’ve got no pressure on ourselves. We want to play in Europe. That’s what we want – European football.
“People talk about the Champions League, but let’s focus on the next game and making sure we stay in a European spot.
“That’s as far as we want to look. If we get more than that, great, but we what want to do is secure European football.”
Ameobi came off the bench to set up Papiss Demba Cisse’s late goal in United’s Easter Monday win over Bolton Wanderers.
The result followed successes against Swansea City, Liverpool, West Bromwich Albion and Norwich.
In a team meeting last month, Pardew and his players set themselves targets for the last 10 games of the season, with the overriding aim of qualifying for the Europa League.
Newcastle could yet go one better, and the excitement inside the dressing room, and on Tyneside, is palpable.
“We looked at the last 10 games and set ourselves targets,” said Ameobi,
“To win five games in a row is pretty fantastic. We’re in this position. We’ve been in this position for a while now, and we want to stay there. We want to keep that gap between ourselves and Everton.
“We knew that we had a little stretch where we could do very well, especially at home.
“We’re excited. The last five games are a different proposition. The sky’s the limit for us – there’s no pressure at all.
“I think you can see that when we go out on the pitch.”
Meanwhile, United’s reserves were beaten 1-0 by Arsenal at Whitley Park last night.
Thomas Eisfeld scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute.
Coach Willie Donachie fielded a youthful side in the Premier Reserve League fixture, with only Ryan Donaldson and Phil Airey having first-team experience.