Faced with a potentially career-ending injury early in his career, Shola Ameobi never thought he’d still be playing in his 30s.
Yet Ameobi was still going strong at Notts County this season at the age of 36.
And the former Newcastle United striker – who helped Notts County reach the League Two play-offs – could have another season left in him.
Kevin Nolan, his manager, said: “He’s absolutely brilliant – he’s got no signs of slowing down. Everyone knows his character.
“I don’t think there’s one bad word to be said about Shola. He’s a lovely, lovely bloke, but on the field, he’s a warrior. That’s why he’s still playing. He’s got a love for the game.”
Ameobi was contemplating retirement when Nolan, his former United team-mate, contacted him early last year after taking charge at Meadow Lane.
“When I rang him, he was thinking about retiring – he was thinking that could be it,” said Nolan. “A year and a half on, he’s still going.
Ameobi had been without a club for six months when he got the call from Nolan.
“Did I want to retire? No,” said Ameobi, a patron of the Newcastle United Foundation. “But, being out of the game for nine months, you start to think ‘is it time?’.
“The opportunities that came along just didn’t sit right with me. Luckily, Kevin got the job and asked me to come down.
If you’d asked me 12 years ago when I had that serious hip, and I didn’t know if I’d come back or not, that I’d still be playing at 36, I’d have laughed.Shola Ameobi
“As soon as I got the phone, I knew that I wanted to. It’s been great. It’s just over a year now, and I’ve loved every minute. The body starts aching the longer the season goes on, but that’s all par for the course.”
Ameobi – who scored 79 goals from 397 Newcastle appearances – had an operation on his hip in 2006.
“If you’d asked me 12 years ago when I had that serious hip, and I didn’t know if I’d come back or not, that I’d still be playing at 36, I’d have laughed,” said Ameobi.
“I’ve been very lucky since then with the types of injuries that I’ve had. Nothing’s fallen apart, and I’m still able to do, for the most part, the things I want to do out on the pitch.
“This is, for me, the icing on the cake, being able to play league football in a place and atmosphere that I enjoy with a manager that I know.”
Ameobi, yesterday released by Notts County, still gets the same “buzz” from scoring and winning.
“You take a win, and the buzz you get would have been the same as playing in the Champions League against Juventus,” said Ameobi.
“Yes, the stakes are slightly higher, but, at the end of the game, the buzz is the same and the feeling of having accomplished something together as a team is one thing that I’ll definitely miss when I hang up my boots.”
Ameobi is still a player. But he’s also still a United fan .
“The score’s the first thing I look for after a game,” he said. “Me and him (Nolan) look at the scores. I’m a fan.”