A DETERMINED Cheik Tiote’s out of Africa – and ready to tackle Newcastle United’s relegation battle.
But the midfielder knows he must first win his place back in Alan Pardew’s side.
Tiote came off the bench in Saturday’s 2-1 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.
It was the 26-year-old’s first appearance in more than a month, with Tiote having been away in South Africa with Ivory Coast for the African Cup of Nations. While frustrated at the result at White Hart Lane, Tiote – who followed Newcastle’s fortunes closely while away – is upbeat going forward given last month’s signings and the recent wins over against Chelsea and Aston Villa.
“It’s good to be back with Newcastle,” Tiote told the Gazette.
“We are a little bit disappointed by the result at Spurs, but I think we played well. We played as a team – we deserved one point.
“I watched the game against Chelsea. The game was fantastic for everybody – everybody did well that day.
“It was good to see Newcastle win that one. We hadn’t won for a while at home, and I was happy when I watched on TV.”
In Tiote’s absence, utility player James Perch has played well in a defensive midfield role alongside Yohan Cabaye, and he knows he won’t be able to walk straight into Pardew’s Premier League team.
However, Tiote – who says he’s relishing extra competition at the club – could start Thursday night’s home Europa League Round of 32 tie against Metalist Kharkiv, held to a 1-1 draw by Whitley Bay yesterday. “Yes, it’s good,” said Tiote, named the most competitive player in training by his Ivory Coast team-mates.
“At every club you need competition in every position.
“You need two or three players in each position – that’s good for everybody.
“It means you have to work hard in training every day, or you lose your position.
“Everybody likes a challenge, and I’m no different. If you don’t like challenges, then you’ll never go forward in life.
“For me, it isn’t a problem. I’ll work hard all of the time to get my place.”
While Tiote was away with the Ivory Coast – knocked out at the quarter-final stage by finalists Nigeria – United signed five players, and Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran have also made an impact.
Sissoko struck twice in Newcastle’s 3-2 win over Chelsea, while Gouffran netted against Tottenham.
“I think the club made a good decision to buy new players,” said Tiote. “Sissoko and Gouffran are good players to bring in.
“They have played well and helped the team have more confidence. I know all about the new players because I watch all of the French competitions on TV.
“At the moment we look good – better than two months before. We look sharp and compact as a team again.
“The manager has made some good decisions to buy new players. Things are going to be OK.”
Pardew is pleased to have Tiote back in his ranks, and will monitor him closely on the training field ahead of the Metalist game.
“He’s an important player,” said Pardew. “We didn’t know how much work he’d done abroad, so we’ve got a week’s work now.
“He’ll come back into the team. He’s a great player.”