ALAN Pardew is confident Newcastle United can cope without African Cup of Nations-bound Cheick Tiote.
Tiote has joined up with his Ivory Coast team-mates ahead of the tournament.
And Pardew could be without the midfielder for up to a month.
Ordinarily, Tiote’s absence would be a huge blow to Pardew, but the 26-year-old has struggled for form this season.
And Pardew’s hoping his spell in South Africa, where the tournament is being staged, will prove a blessing in
disguise for the club.
“The Cheick of last year would have been a massive miss,” Pardew said.
“But this year he’s struggled a bit.
“I’m hoping he can go to the African Cup of Nations and find his best form.
“It might not be bad timing for him or us.”
Teenager Gael Bigirimana – who has impressed in recent weeks – looks set for a run in Newcastle’s team in Tiote’s absence.
And James Perch and Vurnon Anita can also play the defensive midfield role normally assigned to Tiote.
“We have players who can replace what he’s been doing in Perchie, Bigi and Anita,” added Pardew.
The Ivory Coast are in African Cup of Nations Group D with Tunisia, Togo and Algeria.
l DAN Gosling is closing in on his Newcastle United comeback.
The 22-year-old suffered an ankle injury in a reserve game in October.
Gosling has been steadily working his way back to fitness in recent weeks.
And the former Everton player isn’t far behind his midfield colleague Yohan Cabaye, who is pencilled in to return against Norwich City a Carrow Road a week today.
“Dan’s starting to run around and I don’t think he’s too far away,” Pardew said.
“Him and Cabaye are working together.
“He is behind those (Cabaye and Steven Taylor), but I would probably suggest three or four weeks for him.”
Gosling joined Newcastle in the summer of 2010 while recovering from cruciate ligament surgery.
He had hoped to force his way into Pardew’s plans this season.
However, after a run of games in the Europa League, Gosling again succumbed to injury.
“He had a terrible tackle,” added Pardew.
“Him, Haris (Vuckic) and Ryan Taylor are all players that would be playing now in the last four or five games.
“But that’s non-reported that our underbelly has been affected, apart from (Hatem) Ben Arfa and Cabaye.”