CHEIK Tiote’s back at Newcastle United - and ready to tackle the new season.
The midfielder reported back for pre-season training yesterday.
Tiote struggled for form and fitness last term as Alan Pardew’s side battled against relegation from the Premier League.
The 27-year-old pledged his future to the club late last season.
Tough-tackling Tiote admitted he and his team-mates had to look at themselves in the mirror during the summer after a season of domestic underachievement at St James’s Park.
He said: “It wasn’t a top, top season for me, but that’s football.
“I think it’s important to think about yourself when you finish the season. You have to think why it didn’t go so well. That’s normal.”
Tiote - who was given an extra few days off after his involvement in Ivory Coast’s summer internationals - remains an integral part of Pardew’s plans.
And the sooner he is back to his best, the better.
“All players have disappointing seasons,” Pardew said.
“Unfortunately for us, Cheik’s coincided with us having a disappointing season as well, which probably didn’t help him.
“He had such a fantastic season the year before. You don’t become a bad player overnight.
“It’s about confidence, and getting him back to where he was.
“He’s a fantastic character around this building.”
Tiote, signed from FC Twente three years ago, enjoyed a superb first season on Tyneside, and he was handed a new six-and-a-half year deal midway through the campaign.
And he helped the club finish fifth in the Premier League in his second year at the club.
Tiote’s performances inevitably led to speculation linking him with a move elsewhere.
But the talk quietened last season given his stuttering form, which wasn’t helped by a series of minor injuries.
“If he’d had another year like he did when we finished fifth, he probably would be gone,” said Pardew.
“So who knows? That might work in our favour this year given the fact he’s still here.”
Tiote’s most famous moment in a black and white shirt came in February 2011, when he scored a dramatic late equaliser in Newcastle’s 4-4 draw against Arsenal at St James’s Park.
The long-range goal, hit with his weaker left foot, remains his only goal for the club