CHEIK Tiote admits he can’t let the standards he set against Cardiff City drop – or he’ll face the axe!
The midfielder put in his best performance of the season in Newcastle United’s 2-1 win on Saturday.
Tiote was preferred to Vurnon Anita, who was unlucky to be dropped at the Cardiff City Stadium after a series of impressive performances in front of United’s back four.
The inclusion of Tiote ahead of Anita drew some criticism from fans before the game, as did the omission of Hatem Ben Arfa, a late substitute.
Newcastle manager Alan Pardew felt Tiote would better get to grips with Cardiff’s powerful midfielder Gary Medel.
And team justified its selection in a dominant first half for Newcastle, when Loic Remy struck twice. Peter Odemwingie pulled a goal back for Malky Mackay’s team after the break.
Tiote – who struggled for form last season – feels the competition for midfield places will again bring the best out of him.
“That’s the good thing for us as players – when you have an opportunity, you have to take it,” Tiote said.
“There are too many good players in the squad, and the manager has to make a decision.
“When you are put on the pitch you, have to give all you have and perform for the fans – or you lose your place.”
United’s performance – and result – against Cardiff eased the pressure on manager Alan Pardew, who had come under renewed fire from some supporters after the defeats to Everton and Hull City.
And the importance of the match wasn’t lost on Tiote and his colleagues.
“It was very important for us, because we lost the last two games,” said Tiote.
“We needed that reaction, and we found it. Everybody is happier now because we won the game.
“We feel we are in a good position in the table now to go on from this.
“It’s hard when we lose because we know we have good players, but everybody was focused at Cardiff.
“It was all about the team. We played together as one and did the right things.
“The second half was harder because they put their foot on the ball and were more aggressive. We had to defend and stay compact as a team.”
Tiote’s campaign has already been interrupted by injury, but he feels close to full fitness now.
“I was feeling good again,” said the Ivory Coast international, called up by his country for Saturday’s World Cup play-off against Senegal.
“I wasn’t against Everton because I’ve been coming back from injury.
“Now I don’t feel the injury any more. I hope I will stay like this.”