Shola Ameobi on his new life at Notts County, his love for Newcastle '“ and his respect for Rafa Benitez
Once a Magpie, always a Magpie.
Once synonymous with the black and white stripes of Newcastle United, his hometown club, Shola Ameobi’s still going strong at Notts County.
So too is Alan Smith. And the manager is Kevin Nolan, Ameobi’s former United team-mate. The club is second in League Two – and Ameobi’s having a “blast”.
“There’s something about the black and white which just fits my eye,” said Ameobi, who was inducted into Newcastle's Hall of Fame late last year.
“It’s great being down there with Kevin and having that connection with Smudger (Smith) as well. I think Kevin’s trying his best to get our old team back together!
“I always knew he was going to be a manager just by the way he was, because he has been a captain for most of his adult life. I could see he would be a coach in the future.
“It’s great to be a part of that and to lend a hand in what he is trying to build. It’s a real pleasure, and the results are going pretty well too. We’re having a blast.”
Ameobi’s still finding time to visit United’s Academy every week. The 36-year-old is also heavily involved in the work of the Newcastle United Foundation, which has plans for a new sports and education hub a free-kick away from St James’s Park.
“I’m coaching the Academy strikers a couple of days a week,” said Ameobi. “I’ve always been keen to help out with and give back.
“I want to lend a hand, see the excitement on their faces when I’m coaching. The fact that Kevin allows me to do that a couple of days a week works perfectly. I’m a Newcastle United fan through and through, so I’ve always got a keen eye on what’s going on.”
Ameobi, genuinely appreciative for the opportunity that United gave him, wants the club to reach out to more children in the region.
“The plans are just amazing,” said Ameobi. “Not just for football, but for all sports.
“From a physical standpoint, from a well being standpoint, these kids will get the right start to life and it’ll hopefully help them to go on and achieve things. It’s great, because it’s going to bring so many people into this building, so many adults too, who can use it for whatever sports they want.
“We’ve got the classrooms in there for education, so it’s going to change lives. That’s the most important thing.”
Ameobi keeps a close eye on his boyhood team and the work being done by manager Rafa Benitez, who he likens to Sir Bobby Robson.
“The fact that Newcastle won the league was fantastic,” he said. “We always felt that they’d go up, but to go up as champions is even better. When we came back up as champions, it was special. It’ll have been for those lads too.
“Having a man like Rafa at the helm – having met him and see how he works, too – he’s just a master at work.
“It’s great that the club have Rafa. Hopefully, he can build something. You get the sense that he is doing something the likes of Sir Bobby did when he was here. Even from the short time that I’ve been working with the Academy lads, I can see the culture he’s trying to set in place.
“It marries up well with how it was under Sir Bobby. We have a top manager, so let’s hope we can give him what he needs to be able to bring success here.”
Click on the video above to see Newcastle United Foundation's plans for a new sports and education hub in the city