CHEIK Tiote has made his long-awaited comeback - but not with Newcastle United.
Tiote made his first start of the season for Ivory Coast on Saturday.
And the midfielder, yet to play for his club this season, is on course to return for his club against Southampton on Saturday - if he can come through Wednesday’s African Cup of Nations qualifier against Cameroon.
Tiote is due to travel back to Tyneside the following day, leaving him a short turnaround ahead of the club’s visit to the St Mary’s Stadium.
The club’s medical team will then assess him ahead of the Southampton game.
Tiote’s midfield colleague Jack Colback is doubtful for the match with the calf problem which forced him out of England’s two games during the international break.
And Tiote’s return would give the club’s beleaguered manager a welcome lift.
Under-fire Pardew has said Tiote’s absence, up to now, has been due to a hamstring problem.
Tiote - who was reportedly a summer target for Russian club Locomotiv Moscow - was named in Pardew’s squad for the club’s tour to New Zealand, but he didn’t join up with his team-mates.
Instead, Tiote linked up with United on their return to England in late July.
But the 28-year-old, under contract at St James’s Park until 2017, made just one pre-season appearance against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough.
Tiote was named as a substitute against Malaga in Gelsenkirchen three days later, but didn’t make it off the bench.
His absence fuelled fears among fans that he would be sold in this summer’s transfer window, but Tiote, the subject or a “couple of derisory offers”, remained a Newcastle player after the transfer deadline a week ago.
The Russian transfer window closed over the weekend.
Pardew insisted Tiote was “genuinely injured” last month, and added that Tiote had given him no indication that he wanted to leave.
He said: “Not really, not that I’ve seen.
“We’ve all speculation about our players, we’ve had it in the past.
“Some of it carries weight - there were a lot of rumours last season with (Yohan) Cabaye and PSG, and it happened, so I’m always open minded about it.”