Shola Ameobi confident of Newcastle survival
Former Newcastle striker Shola Ameobi remains confident the Magpies will stay up this season, though their safety would likely rob them of a rivalry he relishes.
A 1-1 draw with Champions League semi-finalists Manchester City on Tuesday has left Rafael Benitez's 19th-placed side one point behind Sunderland and two adrift of Norwich in a three-way scrap for top-flight survival.
With only four games to go, one or both of the north-east giants will almost certainly suffer relegation, meaning the Tyne-Wear derby will not be a Barclays Premier League fixture next season.
Ameobi, fondly known on Tyneside as 'The Mackem Slayer' for scoring seven times in games against their neighbours, admits it will be sad to see at least one of Newcastle or Sunderland drop out of the top tier, though he is in no doubt about who he wants to remain in the division.
"I still believe that the club will be in the Premier League come the end of the season," he told Press Association Sport of Newcastle's survival chances. "With the manager and the quality that's there, it's just about putting it together.
"I'm all for all the north-east clubs being in the same league, Middlesbrough included. Those are the games that you look for at the start of the season. That adds to our season, having the two Sunderland games there. The fans look forward to those games and I'm a big fan of all the north-east teams doing well.
"Ideally Newcastle are at the top of that pile, which we have been in recent years. It will mean Sunderland and Norwich going down but my allegiance isn't to any of those teams, it's to Newcastle first and foremost.
"It would be unfortunate for them but all that matters in terms of being a fan is that Newcastle stay in the league."
The 34-year-old will hope to shake off a hamstring injury and continue his impressive derby record this weekend with current club Fleetwood, who meet Blackpool in a battle between two teams trying to avoid demotion into League Two.
Ameobi, who was speaking at the official opening of the Cod Army's new £8million training complex, attributes his form in derby contests to his ability to ignore the furore surrounding the fixtures.
"I know one or two things about local derbies being from Newcastle; I understand the pressures and the bragging rights," he added.
"It excites me. I've been very lucky to have scored as many as I have.
"It's another game and that's the way I approached it. I was very pragmatic.
"Yes, the hype is there from the fans and the media but I always believed you have to be level-headed going into big games like that."