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Ameobi making an instant impression for Middlesbrough
TWO games into Sammy Ameobi's Middlesbrough career, and the Newcastle United loanee has already come up with a goal and an assist. Keep that up for the next two months, and he could yet make the difference between another narrow miss and a prized place in the play-offs.
Having scored on his debut in last weekend's 2-1 win over Cardiff, Ameobi danced down the right-hand side to deliver the cross for Scott McDonald's opener at Huddersfield on Tuesday night.
Tony Mowbray hoped the 20-year-old would make an instant impression when he signed him from Newcastle last month, and Ameobi has not disappointed.
The fact he was able to remain in his native North-East has helped, but one of Newcastle's brightest young prospects deserves considerable credit for the ease with which he has taken to life on Teesside.
"I am still in the area where I have my family and I can come and go whenever I please," said Ameobi, who will retain his place on the right-hand side when Boro travel to Bristol City this afternoon. "That has helped.
"It's good to have them so close. I think I would find it hard to move further away and would get homesick. I am happy to be here and I just want to continue to progress.
"I came in and wanted to help Middlesbrough get some points and get in to the play-offs. I know there was a little bit of pressure, and hopefully I will get over that in time. I have settled quite well and it's already feeling like I am one of the lads."
Prior to moving to Middlesbrough, Ameobi had made just one league start all season. Within the space of four days, he has trebled that figure.
Today, he is set to make his third start in a week, a level of involvement that has previously eluded him in his senior career.
Maintaining his performance levels will be a challenge he has not faced before, and the task is made all the harder by the competitiveness and physically-demanding nature of the Championship.
Unsurprisingly, Ameobi has noticed the difference between the helter-skelter nature of the Championship and the more measured environment of the top-flight, but Mowbray feels the switch will do him good as he looks to advance his career.
"I'm delighted with Sammy," said the Boro boss. "He scored on his debut and made Scott's goal the other night (at Huddersfield) by beating his man and crossing the ball into the six-yard box. He's had a good impact.
"I think the Championship has been an eye-opener for him. I don't think he's ever been asked to run as hard and as far as he's been asked to run in the last two games.
"The Championship is so competitive and so in-your-face that possession switches a lot more from one team to the other than it does in the Premier League.
"Sammy's got someone shouting in his ear to get back and get in front of his full-back, and I think he's found that quite physically demanding. But I think it will only help him in the long run and enable him to grow into the Premier League footballer I know he's capable of becoming. We're delighted he's here, and let's hope he can contribute hugely in the next ten games for us."
Alan Pardew will be equally keen to see Ameobi impress, and the Newcastle manager is expected to make a handful of trips to the Riverside in the remaining two months of the season.
Newcastle's backroom staff think an awful lot of the Geordie attacker, and there is no suggestion that his loan departure suggests his progress towards a regular place in the Magpies' first team has stalled.
Instead, his spell at Boro is regarded as a key part of his development, with Ameobi also accepting that he will benefit from some time on the field after the recruitment of five new players in January swelled the size of Newcastle's squad.
"He (Pardew) was keen for me to get some football, but it was a bit of both (in terms of who suggested the move)," said the youngster. "I wanted some game time.
"I hadn't been playing, he wanted me to get some experience and learn how to become a big part of a team. It's good to learn how to gel in a new environment and the move has definitely paid off so far."