ALAN Pardew’s confident Newcastle United can cope without African Cup of Nations-bound Cheik Tiote.
Tiote has joined up with his Ivory Coast team-mates ahead of the tournament.
And Pardew could be without the midfielder for up to a month.
Ordinarily, Tiote’s absence would be a huge blow to Pardew, but the 26-year-old has struggled for form this season.
And Pardew’s hoping his spell in South Africa, where the tournament is being staged, will prove a blessing in disguise for the club.
“The Cheik of last year would have been a massive miss,” Pardew told the Gazette. “But this year he’s struggled a bit.
“I’m hoping he can go to the African Cup of Nations and find his best form.
“It might not be bad timing for him or us.”
Teenager Gael Bigirimana – who has impressed in recent weeks – looks set for a run in Newcastle’s team in Tiote’s absence.
And James Perch and Vurnon Anita can also play the defensive midfield role normally assigned to Tiote.
“We have players who can replace what he’s been doing in Perchie, Bigi and Anita,” added Pardew.
The Ivory Coast are in African Cup of Nations Group D with Tunisia, Togo and Algeria.