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Pardew hoping brotherly bond will inspire Magpies
ALAN Pardew is hoping some sibling rivalry will help propel Newcastle United to the brink of the Europa League knock-out stage when they entertain Club Brugge this evening.
Pardew is set to hand Sammy Ameobi his first start of the season as the Magpies look to make it seven points out of a possible nine in Group D, and the 20-year-old is expected to line up alongside his elder brother, Shola.
The pair will become only the third brothers to have started together for Newcastle in a competitive fixture, following in the footsteps of George and Ted Robledo, who played in the 1950s, and Matty and Richie Appleby, who started an Anglo-Italian Cup fixture in the early 1990s.
The Ameobis have been on the same pitch on eight occasions since Sammy made his competitive debut at Chelsea in May 2011, but Shola admits it will be a special experience to line up alongside his younger brother at kick off.
“My parents have mentioned it in the past, and I'm sure seeing both of us on the pitch at the same time will bring them tremendous pleasure,” said the striker. “It's no different for me.
“We're much closer now than we used to be with being in and around the first team together. There's nearly 11 years between us, so when we were growing up, I think he was maybe a little bit intimidated by me, which is normal. He's trying to go through what I've been through.
“But we've got a great relationship now. I feel that as a big brother, I have to make sure he's on the right track all the time. I know my parents expect that of me, and it's something I'm conscious about doing.
“I'm sure he's well aware of how hard it's going to be, and what he has to put in to make it to the very top. But I want to see him surpass anything I've ever done in this game and I know he has the ability to do that. He can do that, without a shadow of a doubt.”
Shola has spent more than a decade representing Newcastle at the highest level, and will start this evening's game in second position on the club's all-time list of European goalscorers.
His opener against Bordeaux was his 13th goal in continental competition, second only to Alan Shearer, and tonight's game will be his 44th in either the Champions League or UEFA Cup/Europa League for the Magpies.
Sammy, on the other hand, only made his European debut when he came off the bench in Marimito last month, and his winner at Scunthorpe in last season's Carling Cup remains his only senior strike.
Nevertheless, there are strong similarities between the brothers' career trajectory. Both made their senior debut against Chelsea, and both have been involved in European competition at an early stage of their development, with Shola having taken on the likes of Barcelona and Juventus in the Champions League at the age of just 21.
“Sammy is coming through, and I've been through what he's going through now, breaking into the team as a young player and also playing in Europe,” said Shola. “I was fortunate enough to do that when I broke into the team and he's finding his feet in the same way.
“He's a player that has tremendous ability, as we all know, but it's about getting your head right as well. I know he has a good head on his shoulders, so it's about making sure he works as hard as he can to get into that team.” Shola faces a battle of his own to hold down a place in the first team of course, and while he was understandably disappointed to have been withdrawn in the first half of Sunday's 1-1 draw at Sunderland, he appreciated the need to make midfield reinforcements in the wake of Cheik Tiote's dismissal.
“I understand the manager did it for the sake of the team,” he said. “Fortunately, it worked out well for us and we managed to get a result there.
“It was very disappointing at the time, but when you sit back, you understand that the manager has to make a decision and his decision was the right one in the end. Unfortunately, I had to come off because of what happened to Cheik, but I understand that.”
Tiote will start this evening as Pardew fields a side boasting a blend of youth and experience. Shane Ferguson will line up on the left-hand side, but Papiss Cisse is expected to start in attack and the likes of Steven Taylor and Gabriel Obertan should also be involved.
“I think a win would be a big step towards qualification,” said Pardew. “If we win the game – and only if we win it – then the schedule would have helped us because to play Brugges and Bordeaux at home (within the first three games) would have been an advantage.
“I won't be saying that if we don't win though, because then we've got to go to Brugges and Bordeaux to try to get something, which is going to be difficult. They are both very strong teams at home, so this is a big night.”
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