Papiss Cisse’s ‘focused and fit’ at Newcastle – and NOT sulking after axe

Newcastle United's Papiss Demba Cisse.
Newcastle United's Papiss Demba Cisse.

Steve McClaren says he has no concerns over Papiss Demba Cisse’s focus ahead of tonight’s game against West Ham United.

The striker is expected to replace the suspended Aleksandar Mitrovic in McClaren’s starting XI at Upton Park, though Ayoze Perez is pushing hard for a start up front.

I am happy with his reaction to not playing. He was very unlucky not to (play). We just wanted to look at Mitro and one or two other things.

Steve McClaren

Cisse admitted after Newcastle’s last game – the 1-0 home defeat to Arsenal – that he “didn’t know” whether he would still be at the club when the transfer window shut.

While the 30-year-old was open to a move away from at St James’s Park, McClaren is hopeful he will be “focused and fit” now the window has closed.

“I am happy with his reaction to not playing,” said McClaren, whose side are without a Premier League win so far this season.

“He was very unlucky not to (play). We just wanted to look at Mitro and one or two other things.”

Cisse scored 11 league goals last season despite missing a large part of the campaign through injury and suspension.

And McClaren feels the Senegal international still has a lot to offer Newcastle.

Asked about Cisse’s situation, he said: “There was a lot of speculation.

“But I said from day one to (managing director) Lee Charnley ‘flipping heck, if Papiss does go – and there is talk about this, that and the other – you have got to get me a player who can score 11 goals in 22 games as he did last season’.

“That is very difficult in today’s market. So he can score and when he is focused and fit, he is a threat and he is that at the moment.”

McClaren has been tasked with guiding the club to a top-eight finish.

But the 54-year-old, appointed in the summer as Alan Pardew’s permanent successor, is reluctant to look too far ahead given the more immediate work that still needs to be done on the training field.

“At this present moment, I am not targeting anything at all other than trying to get this team to play how I want the team to play, and how I can, in my mind, envision what we can do,” he said.

“We are not there yet. Until I get that, I can’t say ‘we will do this’ or ‘we will do that’. It is too early for that.”

McClaren talked of the importance of improving Newcastle’s defensive record after arriving at the club.

The team shipped goals at an alarming rate last season as it fought to stay in the league, and McClaren has been attempting to build on more solid foundations.

“We have tried to establish that,” he said. “We kind of did that at Middlesbrough when we went in.

“I try to do that wherever I go – you have got to be organised and disciplined. Players have got to do the work, and I am delighted with how they have been working.

“It was something I looked at. It was about 62 goals they conceded last season, and that is going to get you into trouble.

“So there were two things we needed to address. Like a jigsaw puzzle, you try and address one thing and you get a problem, you have to take the pieces out and try again.

“We need to find a balance. We want to be a team that is hard to beat, that works and has the spirit, but also a team that on the other side with the ball, can cause teams problems.”

Meanwhile, Aaron Cresswell has called on West Ham to replicate their recent away form and pick up their first Premier League home win of the campaign.

Slaven Bilic’s side have won their first two away games of the new season with impressive victories at Arsenal and Liverpool, only to see their final campaign at Upton Park begin in disappointing fashion.

Both Leicester City and Bournemouth have taken all three points from east London.

“Our two away games have been fantastic, but our two home games have not been good enough,” said Cresswell, who scored against Newcastle in the corresponding fixture last season..

“We have to put in a good performance and get the three points. At home we haven’t been good enough in both games.”