NEWCASTLE United’s Cheik Tiote’s getting older and wiser.
That’s the verdict of manager Alan Pardew, who feels there’s a “maturity” about the midfielder’s performances this season.
Tiote – who struggled for form last season – impressed as stand-in captain in the absence of Fabricio Coloccini.
Best known for his tough tackling, the Ivory Coast international was disciplined and diligent wearing the skipper’s armband.
And Pardew feels Tiote, often wasteful in possession last term, is showing the kind of form for United that he displayed when the club finished fifth in the Premier League and qualified for the Europa League two seasons ago.
“I think he’s been strong all year,” Pardew said.
“But there was a maturity about him when he took the armband that we haven’t seen in the past.
“Hopefully, he’ll carry that forward whether he’s got the armband or not.
“He’s playing really well – as good as he did two seasons ago when we finished fifth.
“He was a big part of that. That, really, is good news for us.”
Tiote – who handed the armband back to fit-again Coloccini before Saturday’s home game against Norwich City – has also cleaned up his disciplinary record, having only been booked twice so far this season.
The 27-year-old’s first three seasons at St James’s Park were punctuated by a series of suspensions.
Tiote – who is keeping Vurnon Anita out of Pardew’s side – has also been lifted by Ivory Coast’s qualification for next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil. They beat Senegal in a two-legged play-off to qualify for the tournament.
However, one area where Tiote – who famously netted a stunning equaliser in the 4-4 draw against Arsenal in February 2011 – is yet to improve is his shooting, which was again wayward in Newcastle’s 2-1 win over Norwich.
Meanwhile, tickets for United’s game against Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on December 21 are now on sale to season-ticket holders with 25 or more loyalty points.
They are priced £32 for adults, £21 for over-65s and students and £16 for under-18s.
n NEWCASTLE United’s reserve team face Birmingham City in the newly-established Under-21 Premier League Cup at St Andrew’s this afternoon (2pm kick-off).