NEWCASTLE United midfielder Cheik Tiote is ‘10 times better’ than he was last season.
That’s the view of Magpies manager Alan Pardew after watching the Ivory Coast star produce a fine display in the goalless draw against Dutch side Den Haag on Saturday.
Tiote was outstanding in the centre of the park on his return to Holland, where he made his name with FC Twente before moving to Tyneside two years ago.
Pardew insists the player is ready for his best season yet at Newcastle, after admitting Tiote had a sluggish start to the last campaign.
Pardew said: “Cheik looks 10 times better than he did last year, and I absolutely mean that.
“He didn’t come back well last summer, if I’m honest. However, he has summered well this time and is in great physical shape. It’s going to be a big season for Cheik.”
It wasn’t just Tiote who impressed in Saturday’s draw, however, with other senior players also looking in good shape ahead of the Premier League opener against Tottenham on August 18, which pleased Pardew who knows how much the team relies on their experienced men.
Pardew added: “Fabricio Coloccini is just immense for us. On Saturday, he just looked like himself, which is a top centre-half. So I’m happy with that.
“Tim Krul looked like Tim, if you know what I mean, as did Jonas Gutierrez, who was really sharp as well. ”
While the Newcastle defence was solid, they lacked a cutting edge up front, although Shola Ameobi had what looked like a good goal ruled out for offside.
Without Hatem Ben Arfa and Yohan Cabaye, the Magpies struggled for creativity, and boss Pardew must decide whether to play the two Frenchman in tomorrow night’s friendly at Hartlepool United.
Pardew said: “Hartlepool will be another good test for us.
“We are just lacking a bit of creativity, which is probably to be expected in pre-season, so I’d like to see us score some goals and win the match.”