Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Real Shola Struts His Stuff

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The Real Shola Struts His Stuff

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

Under pressure, he produced the goods just when he needed it the most. But Graeme Souness wasn't the only one, writes Stuart Rayner

Much of the talk in the build-up to yesterday's derby at St James's Park was about the pressure on Graeme Souness to save his job.

As a player and a manager, adversity has always brought the best out of Souness so it was perhaps no surprise when his team responded with a thrilling win.

Not for the first time in his Newcastle United career, Souness was being talked of as being one game away from the sack when the whistle blew at 1.30pm yesterday. His players responded with the kind of passionate performance he used to specialise in when bossing midfields in the 1980s.

Pressure situations can produce one of two reactions from footballers: to force them into their shell or bring out the best in them.

United's players produced the latter response, none more so than arguably the least popular of the 11 players who lined up in black-and-white.

The caller who phoned Radio Five Live's 6-0-6 moan-in the previous night claiming Shola Ameobi had already proved he was not up to the job was by no means a lone crank.

Michael Chopra has been in prolific form for United's reserves recently, while his strike partner and rival for a starting place has looked a forlorn figure. Yet it is Ameobi to whom Souness has regularly turned first.

Ameobi was not helped either by being played out of position on the right wing at Wigan Athletic last week. His limp performance from the bench at the JJB Stadium did nothing to quieten the pro-Chopra brigade.

So the former England Under-21 player could probably have done without the added pressure of deputising for the injured Michael Owen, the man the Geordie faithful has pinned their hopes on.

But Ameobi responded with the kind of passionate performance which epitomised the way Souness' players pulled out the stops for their manager. …

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