Ameobi off to the US, as Kuqi coup is done
SHOLA AMEOBI is due to fly to the United States to have a protective mask fitted in the hope it will ensure Newcastle United have their first choice striker back in the ranks sooner than expected. Despite signing much-travelled target-man Shefki Kuqi until the end of the season yesterday, Magpies manager Alan Pardew wants to ensure Ameobi is back well ahead of schedule. Now Pardew and Newcastle's medical team have arranged for Ameobi to head to the Michigan Hand and Sports Rehab Center in Detroit for an appointment with top specialist Jeremy Murray. Murray is renowned across the Atlantic for helping more than 500 basketball players take to the court in a NBA match wearing masks specifically moulded for each case. Pardew is confident Ameobi will return with one to suit his needs after fracturing his cheekbone in an aerial clash with Steve Sidwell during the defeat at Fulham ten days ago. If successful, the forward could return to Premier League action in the next couple of weeks, significantly sooner that the initial six-eight week expected lay-off. Pardew said: "He's had his operation, we're going to send him to America, there's a basketball guy who specialises in masks for the American NBA. He's the only one who does that kind of thing so we're going to use it to help protect Shola's cheekbone. "I'm open minded about it to be honest, let's send him out and see how we get on. Shola's sending out the signals he'll play with it if he's given the guarantee it'll protect him and I think it will. " Murray's masks are made out of the same plastic which makes bulletproof glass and, while thinner, would provide Ameobi with a second layer of skin capable of withstanding heavy contact. Having endured his fair share of injuries in the past, the 29-year-old wants to return to action quickly, particularly knowing he is such a vital part of Newcastle's drive to avoid relegation this season. "The important thing is he's prepared to do it," said Pardew. "If he doesn't feel confident going into challenges then there's no point. " The longer Ameobi is ruled out of action, the more chances short term signing Kuqi will have to make the most of an opportunity which he was surprised came along when it did. Kuqi, a free agent after leaving Swansea last month, has signed a deal until the end of the season after Pardew opted against pressing ahead with other alternatives like Jeremie Aliadiere and Ewerthon. The 34-year-old is now in line to be on the bench at one of his former clubs, Blackburn, tomorrow and his new boss thinks a player that has played for Stockport, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Crystal Palace and Derby in England among others could spring a surprise. "I didn't have much of a list if I'm honest," admitted Pardew. "Obviously, why are they out of contract Shefki was in a different situation, he's a player I know, he's honest, he's a gentleman and he's somebody I don't think too many players here are going to have complaints about. He's a big guy who knows how to handle himself. "I knew him coming into the dressing room wouldn't be a problem. Whoever I brought in, he ain't going to be Andy Carroll. Was he going to affect our first team" After leaving Swansea, Kuqi did not know where his next career move would take him but he was stunned to have found himself heading for St James' Park. Pardew has given him no false hope, warning him his time in the North-East is likely to end come May, but the Finnish forward famed for a belly flop goal celebration was desperate for the chance. "I've said to him let's be honest, there's probably nothing at the end of the season for you, we just want you to bring your personality and your playing ability to the club to see us through to the end of the season and he's absolutely fine with that," said the Newcastle boss. Pardew also revealed that Steven Taylor is due to restart training on Monday after recovering from a hamstring problem that has prevented him from playing since January 5. But having only figured in seven matches this season prior to breaking down against West Ham, Pardew feels Taylor has had to also work on his general size. "I thought he was looking a little heavy and we've talked to him about his fitness, his training regime, and I think you'll see a more slender Steven Taylor when he comes back," said Pardew. "It was physical bulk, upper body bulk, and I don't think he needs it. He's a big lad. "
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