CHEICK Tiote has reiterated his commitment to Newcastle United – and backed Alan Pardew to take the club back into Europe.
The midfielder’s on international duty with the Ivory Coast, who face Tanzania at the weekend.
Tiote will then have a holiday ahead of Newcastle’s pre-season campaign, which is close to being finalised.
And the 26-year-old – who struggled for form and fitness last season as the club battled the threat of relegation from the Premier League – is determined to hit the ground running when he returns to Tyneside.
“I have a good opportunity next season – and I will prepare for that after the two international games,” Tiote told SportMail.
“The most important thing is to start next season well. Hopefully, it will be a good season.
“I think we can again challenge for Europe. I think it will be different to this season. It was really difficult for us.
“We didn’t have a massive squad, and we played in Europe as well as the Premier League.
“I think next season is going to be much better. I’m just thinking about being ready for next season.”
Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow have been linked with a summer move for tough-tackling Tiote, who joined United three years ago from Dutch side FC Twente and is under contract at St James’s Park until 2017.
However, he expects to still be a Newcastle player when the new season kicks off.
Speaking while on international duty, Tiote said: “I have a contract with Newcastle. Unless they want to do business with another club, I will be a Newcastle player.”
United’s disappointing domestic campaign – the club finished the season in 16th place – led to calls from some fans for Pardew to be dismissed.
But Newcastle’s hierarchy believe Pardew – who argued that injuries, a lack of squad depth and the demands of the Europa League were mitigating factors – can lead the club to a top-10 finish next term.
Tiote is also confident United can regroup in pre-season ahead of a renewed challenge for European football.
“When you do well, you are the best manager and the best players,” said Tiote, who is fully behind Pardew.
“When the team struggles, you are criticised. That’s football. The manager and the players understand this.
“We have to believe in him and stay together. I think he is a very good manager, and I think next season will be different.”
Tiote played 90 minutes for the Ivory Coast in their 3-0 win over Gambia in Bakau at the weekend.
He and his international team-mates face Tanzania in Dar es Salaam on Sunday in another World Cup qualifier.