Mo Diame believes his AFCON return can coincide with an upturn in Newcastle’s fortunes

Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame and Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees battle for the ball.
Newcastle United's Mohamed Diame and Sheffield Wednesday's Tom Lees battle for the ball.

After the disappointment of an Africa Cup of Nations exit with Senegal, Newcastle midfielder Mo Diame is determined to make sure United’s campaign is not further derailed.

The 29-year-old was part of his national squad who were dumped out of the competition by Cameroon on penalties at the quarter final stage last week.

We’re still confident. We want to get promoted

Diame’s involvement with Senegal has seen him miss the whole of the month of January, apart from the 1-0 loss at Blackburn, which saw United give up their hold on top spot in the Championship.

In his absence, top of the pile rivals Brighton have strengthened, both on and off the park, while the likes of Reading and Leeds United have closed the gap to the Magpies, who hold the second automatic promotion spot.

The former Hull City man returned to the United first-team fold on Tuesday night against QPR, but while he entered the pitch with the game balanced at 2-1 and the club heading back to the second tier summit, he left it with Rafa Benitez’s men yet again cursing the making of their own downfall.

But Diame is keen to be handed the chance to shine from the start against Derby County tomorrow, to try and arrest United’s recent mini-decline.

When asked whether he wants to be thrown in at the deep end against Steve McClaren’s side, Diame said: “Definitely, I’m ready.

“The manager is going to pick his team but I am getting ready to start every single game like I always do.

“Now the manager can decide what he’s going to do and I need to be ready.

“We’re still confident. We want to get promoted, that’s the target and that will be the target until the end.”

Diame made just one appearance for his country while he was away, in Senegal’s final group game against Algeria.

So, with a lack of action in Gabon, as well as all of the travelling, it begs the question whether Diame is fit.

“I had a long trip, came back on Tuesday and got 10 minutes off the bench - I need to get ready and be prepared,” he said.

“I’ve got a couple of days to get ready.

“I’ll do everything to get my legs back and make sure I’m ready for Saturday.”

Tuesday’s last gasp 2-2 draw, courtesy of Ciaran Clark’s late own goal, was overshadowed somewhat by the club’s exploits in the transfer market, or more aptly their lack of action.

Manager Rafa Benitez had stated his desire to bring in at least two new faces - a midfielder and wide player - in the January window.

But due to forces out of the Spaniard’s control United ended up with nothing, pulling out of a deal for Crystal Palace winger Andros Townsend at the 11th hour on Monday night.

All the talk of transfers matters little to Diame, though.

He’s 100% sure that United have got a squad more than capable of securing promotion.

Diame said: “Everyone knows that we have a good, quality squad.

“I think the manager knows what he is doing. If he didn’t bring in any players it’s because he knows he can get promoted with the squad he has.

“We need to be confident in it and make sure we are ready.”

Reflecting back on the midweek clash, Diame admits it was missed chances that cost the Magpies points. He said: “I think it was a game we should have won. We have another coming on Saturday and we need to react.”