When Sammy Ameobi became a Middlesbrough player this summer, signing on a free transfer after leaving Nottingham Forest, I said to the lads “hopefully we don’t see him play much for us”.
Not out of spite or ill-will but because it wasn’t particularly the most inspiring and exciting signing possible, even just in the free agent market at the time.
What I didn’t foresee and I’m sure Warnock and co. didn’t either was that we’d be closing in on November without Ameobi even featuring in a pre-season game for the club, with the former Newcastle product being at the centre of a mysterious injury that has left his Boro career on ice since July.
Shortly after arriving at Rockliffe to begin initial pre-season health checks and fitness work, the part of the year footballers dread more than any as they blow off the cobwebs, news broke that Ameobi was dealing with a knee injury that would keep him out the scheduled trip to Devon.
That came as a blow to Warnock who, at the time, was overhauling the squad for the coming season and the injury meant that he only had Marcus Tavernier and Duncan Watmore as senior options out-wide at a point where both players best position was arguably infield.
The issue of depth and in fact quality were rectified later in the summer with the emergence of Isaiah Jones and the arrival of Onel Hernandez from Norwich City on a season-long loan deal.
This was while the timeline for Ameobi’s return to fitness was pushed back and the issue surrounding the gangly winger became, as Alice remarked in Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, “curiouser and curiouser”.
Since July, there has been no definitive answer on what is actually wrong with Sammy Ameobi, when we might actually see him back involved with the team and where he is.
We know that there is an “issue with fluid on his knee” and that he is out “indefinitely” but at a club with the facilities, sports science and medical department that Boro have it seems odd that nobody seems to actually know what is going on.
What makes the whole situation even more peculiar is that Ameobi hasn’t been spotted in public since July. Not in rehab photos, at matches or on social media. We’ve received regular, almost weekly, posts about Marcus Browne from either the club or Browne himself.
In the day and age we live in, Ameobi is one of very few top-level footballers without any social media presence whatsoever. It’s almost like he’s gone missing off the face of the Earth.
The secrecy and vagueness surrounding Ameobi has led some Boro fans to question if there’s a murkier reason for the clandestine nature of his absence.
Is there a personal issue? Has he “done a Mendez-Laing”? Are Boro involved in a legal battle with Forest or Ameobi’s agent regarding his medical?
Me? I think it might be even darker.
I think someone at the club has killed him off and this lack of clarity is an attempt to skirt over the fact that there’s a cold-blooded murderer on the loose round the corridors of Rockliffe Hall.
There would be plenty of people with motive.
Maybe it was this year’s breakout talent Isaiah Jones. Neil Warnock admitted himself that the masked winger wouldn’t have “got a sniff” without Ameobi dropping out of his plans.
The 22-year-old was facing another season on loan, potentially returning to Queen of the South, before forcing himself not just into the squad but the first team and becoming a terrace favourite.
I always thought there was something shady about how attached Jones was to that mask. Potentially, it helped to throw the police off the scent and like other killers, Jones held onto it as a trophy.
Or maybe it was another young winger who pounced on Ameobi, to get a foot in the door and attempt to make his way into the first team.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I present Suspect B – Jeremy Sivi.
When speaking about Ameobi’s injury when Boro decamped to Devon, Neil Warnock said “what it does do is create opportunities, even for players we haven’t thought about yet. Anybody could get an opportunity in the coming weeks.”
Sivi, who signed for Boro at the end of May, took his chances afforded by Ameobi’s absence well as he shined against Bishop Auckland and Tavistock. However, the speedster didn’t quite make the cut for this season, with a season in PL2 with the Under-23s judged to be best for his development. (out of sight, out of mind, more like)
The curious case of Sammy Ameobi may not have been caused by a desire to supplant him in the team. Perhaps it was driven by jealousy.
While both Ameobi and Grant Hall are classified as being 6’4″, it is the winger rather than the strapping defender who tops the charts between the pair at 1.94m to Hall’s 1.92m.
Was Hall unable to process not being Boro’s tallest outfield player and flew into a rage, sinking his Turkey teeth into Ameobi?
Of course, Matt Crooks arrived shortly after Ameobi’s injury to also edge Hall out at 1.93m tall, but Crooks is well hard isn’t he? He’d batter Hall.
The final suspects in this case are the Costa Del Teesside Cosa Nostra of Neil Warnock, Kevin Blackwell and Ronnie Jepson. After putting his new signing through his paces on the Rockliffe pitches, was Warnock unhappy with his purchase?
Knowing money was needed throughout the squad did he order Jepson to carry out a Luca Brasi style execution to make room in the squad with the evidence hidden in Kevin Blackwell’s kitchen?
Warnock has claimed in the past months to have seen Ameobi “once or twice” when he has been in for rehab work, a claim that hasn’t been confirmed by anyone else at the club. Makes you think. Well, either that or I’ve been binging too many true crime documentaries on Netflix.
Of course, that was all just trying to make light of a difficult situation for Sammy Ameobi, the club and the fans.
At 29-years-old, a significant knee injury could spell the end of his career and even if/when he returns, football is a finite career and it is horrible for any player to lose a significant part of it. For the club, they will be gutted for Sammy.
They will also be wondering if they would have been better suited putting his wages towards someone with a cleaner injury record, which is something that does cross fans minds too, however cruel that seems.
We all send our absolute best to Sammy and hopefully next time his name is mentioned it comes with good news on his recovery.
Photo Credits: Middlesbrough F.C.
Editor’s Notes – This piece has been a comedic effort and parody. Nobody at Erimus Football is accusing anybody at Middlesbrough F.C. of murder or any wrongdoing. Obviously. Don’t sue.