Steve McClaren has launched a staunch defence of Cheick Tiote – after he was labelled a “bad egg”.
The long-serving midfielder is sidelined with a knee injury.
He’s not a bad egg at all. I know Cheick well. I obviously had him at Twente, and he’s no trouble. He doesn’t cause trouble, he just wants to play.Steve McClaren
And Tiote – who also worked with McClaren at FC Twente – hardly played last term.
Tiote’s commitment to the cause was questioned by a journalist on Sky Sport’s Sunday Supplement at the weekend.
But McClaren has insisted that Tiote “doesn’t cause trouble” in the dressing room.
“There’s been no problem with Cheick,” said McClaren, whose side take on Sheffield Wednesday at St James’s Park in the Capital One Cup tonight.
“He’s not a bad egg at all. I know Cheick well. I obviously had him at Twente, and he’s no trouble. He doesn’t cause trouble, he just wants to play.
“Papiss (Cisse) is Papiss, and he goes around with a smile on his face. That’s the culture that he’s got. I don’t agree with that view at all.”
Tiote made just Premier League 10 starts last season.
A year ago, then-manager Alan Pardew admitted interest in him from an unnamed club had led to Tiote becoming “unsettled”.
The 29-year-old had been supposed to meet his team-mates in New Zealand for the second leg of the club’s two-game tour of the country, but he did not travel to the country.
And Tiote went on to make a fitful contribution in the first half of the season before suffering a knee injury while on duty at the African Cup of Nations with the Ivory Coast in January.
“We haven’t seen enough of Cheick,” said McClaren, who has not put a timescale on Tiote’s return from a knee problem.
“He went away for the Africa Cup of Nations, and I don’t really think he’s played a game since.
“That’s an ongoing problem that he has, and he needs to be right to play.
“He hasn’t been right or correct – it’s as simple as that. He hasn’t been able to build up his fitness, but I know Cheick well, and I couldn’t be any stronger in terms of saying that he’s not any trouble.
“He’s no bad egg – he just wants to play football.
“But he’s not been able to do that, so he’s frustrated. He’s definitely not been feigning injury.”