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Tiote settled as a bigger fish in Tyne
Published : 13 Aug 2011 08:00:00
IT is safe to assume that few Newcastle United supporters had heard of Cheik Tiote when he moved across the North Sea from Holland 12 months ago. This evening, ahead of the start of his second season in the Premier League, English football knows all about the Ivorian. Tiote had already made people sit up and take notice with his performances during his first few months at St James' Park, when his combative style had highlighted an exceptional talent as well as earning him plenty yellow cards. But it was the timing of the defensive midfielder's stunning left-foot volley on February 5 that propelled his status to new heights. The strike completed Newcastle's remarkable comeback from four goals down against Arsenal and assured him of a place in Geordie folklore forever. With the memory of that equaliser - the 'greatest goal of his career' so far - still in his mind, he is fully expecting Arsenal to be intent on avenging such a night of high drama that left Arsene Wenger red-faced. But Tiote will always cherish the events of that night because he knows such a scenario is unlikely to ever happen again. He said: "It is still in my head. I didn't know what to do when I scored. Sometimes football is crazy and this was one of those. "If you do not score a lot and then you score one, one of the best goals, you don't know what you have to do. I was happy for the goal for the fans. To get 4-4 against Arsenal is not easy. You do not do that two times." Tiote is available to face Arsenal today after renewing his working visa; a problem that had forced him to stay behind at the Ivorian Embassy in Ghana when Newcastle faced Fiorentina in their final pre-season friendly. He insists, though, there are no problems with his fitness levels, having been joined in Accra by Newcastle fitness coach Derek Wright, and he only has eyes on starting against the Gunners today. Following the departure of captain Kevin Nolan and the ongoing uncertainty surrounding Joey Barton's future, Pardew is looking for more characters to emerge from inside the dressing room. Tiote, potentially, could be one those. He said: "I am still the same as last season, I don't need to change. Kevin Nolan is a great man, but now we have to think about the future. "We have some good new players and we have to work together like last season and see what happens." The success of his first season on Tyneside has led to a number of top clubs - including Chelsea - monitoring his progress. Having signed a six-year contract last January, however, he is satisfied Newcastle are continuing to show plenty of ambition and can fulfil his own aspirations. "I am happy here. In football you don't know, when a player will move," he said. "Now we need someone on the left side because Jose Enrique has gone. We don't have a left-back now. But for me I do not have a problem to play here. "Football is qualitative. There are some big players at Newcastle. Nolan, Andy Carroll, Enrique have gone. Then there are new players who can make some impact in team. For Newcastle now we have more possibilities than last season because the squad is more complete now. We are happy with the squad." The 25-year-old picked up an astonishing 15 yellow cards in his first season in England and did suggest he has become more streetwise ahead of another season in the Premier League. He will not be making any predictions, but he is satisfied Newcastle's new look squad has the potential to improve on last season's mid-table finish. "I don't know where we can finish," said Tiote. "Maybe tenth, who knows. We need to work hard. A lot of teams are ready for this season. They want to do a good season. It won't be easy for Newcastle this season."