Mohamed Diame happy to be back in Newcastle's starting XI '“ after avidly following club's fortunes from Africa

Mohamed Diame is looking to put his Africa Cup of Nations disappointment behind him '“ by powering Newcastle United into the Premier League.
Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame.Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame.
Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame.

Diame made his first start for the club since returning from the tournament in Gabon at the weekend.

The midfielder put in a powerful performance in the club’s 1-0 win over Derby County at St James’s Park.

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Diame returned from AFCON late last month following Senegal’s elimination.

They were knocked out of the competition at the quarter-final stage by Cameroon after a penalty shootout.

“It was a good experience for me,” said Diame, who made one start for Senegal.

“It’s always good to play for my country and make my family proud.

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“It was disappointing the way we lost the penalties, but it’s something I have to now forget and stay focused on Newcastle.

“I’m OK. Even if I didn’t play a lot at the Africa Cup of Nations, I kept worked there. I am fresh. I feel good and I am confident.”

Diame, signed from Hull City last summer, had hit form late last year after a slow start to his United career.

And the 29-year-old – who has scored five goals so far this season – feels he can quickly settle back into Rafa Benitez’s team.

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Diame followed Newcastle’s fortunes closely from Gabon, and he feels the key over the coming weeks and months will be the togetherness Benitez has fostered on and off the pitch.

“I was following every single game, even if I couldn’t watch it,” said Diame, used as a No 10 by Benitez.

“I was talking to the guys. It wasn’t easy. The cup game was a bad result, but we need to stay focused. We know we have a good quality squad.

“The transfer window is now closed and we need to stick together and make sure we work hard.

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“If we want to get promoted, we will need everyone. Maybe some players who didn’t play a lot in the first half of the season will make the difference at the end. We need to stick together.”

Christian Atsu, Newcastle’s final AFCON participant, should be available for Saturday evening’s visit to Molineux.

Atsu’s Ghana lost the third-place play-off Burkina Faso on Saturday.

“I expected them to get to the final as they have a really good team,” said Diame. “He will come back and fight for us.”

Atsu was named in the AFCON’s team of the tournament after starring for the semi-finalists.