*Yes, you’ll think this is a sensationalist headline. Hear me out though*
Marc Iles recently wrote a wonderful article about new signing Will Buckley which inspired to write about another one of our summer recruits: Sammy Ameobi.
Remember deadline day last year? We signed Ben Alnwick, Tom Thorpe, Keshi Anderson, James Henry and Sammy Ameobi. It was incredible wasn’t it? We were under embargo yet we signed Alnwick – a proven League 1 keeper; Thorpe, who was highly rated at Man Utd; Anderson, a hot prospect at Palace; Henry, whom I always rated in the Championship; and Ameobi, who was once counted among England’s brightest young talents.
You think I’m exaggerating about Ameobi? Take a look at this video. Or not. It shows England U21 free kick practice, and is dated September 3rd 2013. The likes of Eric Dier, Nathan Redmond, Nat Chalobah, James Ward-Prowse and (I think) Harry Kane are shown taking free kicks. And pretty good ones at that. However, one player’s free kick’s stand out among the rest: Ameobi’s.
Dier and Kane are often seen taking free kicks for England these days. Chalobah plays for Premier League holders Chelsea. Ward-Prowse takes free kicks for Southampton, and his team mate Redmond is a key part of that team too. What’s more, they’ve all payed for England’s senior team apart from Chalobah who still managed a cool 40 games for the U21s. Meanwhile Ameobi signed for Championship Bolton this summer.
If you watched the video, you’ll have noticed how happy Ameobi looks. He’s clearly popular among the squad (and clearly cracked a few good gags which tragically are inaudible). He certainly looks the part, and looks at home in that setup among England’s best talents.
However, the last few seasons have not gone to plan. Ameobi, despite playing some Premier League football, struggled to break into the Newcastle team. A loan spell at Cardiff didn’t do his confidence the favours that he and Newcastle had hoped for, as problems with asthma and consistency reduced his playing time.
He came to Bolton last year “a bit broken” in his words, while his former England U21 colleagues had returned from the Euros and looked to push on in the Premier League.
A loan spell at Bolton is exactly what Ameobi needed. The fans took to him immediately, buoyed by the arrival of a ‘big name’, having worried all summer that we would not be able to put together a squad capable of promotion. Ameobi certainly repaid the faith of the fans.
Deployed mainly on the right wing, he isn’t a conventional, ‘Filipe Morais-type’ winger who runs down the wing and crosses it. Ameobi isn’t actually all that quick. He also doesn’t have the best right foot. What he does have though, is incredible skill.
His close control and dribbling skill can get him out of tight spaces, and allow him to open up the game. He would often take the ball inside and distribute it into space well, which created many of our moves. However, his most notable ability, is to create something out of nothing.
Give Ameobi an inch as he looks to cut inside at your own peril. His sweet left foot, as shown in the video, is as good as anyone in this league’s. And most people’s in the Premier League. Think I’m exaggerating? Watch the video and see him line up against the likes of Ward Prowse and Harry Kane.
Clearly his asthma has been an issue which he has had to manage, but when he really hit his stride in League 1, Ameobi looked sharp and fit for 90 minutes. Since he has been out with injury, and will continue to be for the next few weeks, I think it is really important to let him get back to full fitness before we start making judgements about whether he is good enough for this level.
His brother Shola, also popular among Wanderers fans, has backed Sammy to go all the way. And I do too. If Kane, Dier and Redmond can play for England, why can’t Ameobi?
His loan spell last season seemed to bring his confidence back, and get him smiling again after a really tough few years. When he’s playing with confidence, we have seen the way he can create something from nothing – and that is exactly what we’ll need in the Championship this year.
We’ll come up against watertight defences who won’t let us through, and Ameobi’s 30 yard pile drivers will certainly come in handy.
If we can get the best out of him, Ameobi has the talent to Bolton (and himself) back to where they belong.