Toon's Mr T targets Champions League (but will he get on the plane?)
Published 21:30 24/02/12 By Simon Bird
Cheick Tiote is revelling in his Mr T nickname - and Newcastle's crack midfield commando believes they can finish above Chelsea this season.
The Ivory Coast midfielder earned the fans' moniker because of his mohawk hairstyle and tough guy image on the pitch.
And as manager Alan Pardew prepares to begin the Geordies' run-in now that his A-team are available again, Tiote has revealed he has been teasing his mates at Stamford Bridge.
Tiote and fellow midfielder Yohan Cabaye are back for the St James’ Park clash with Wolves, and he said: “I have heard fans calling me Mr T.
It’s is a funny name, but I am happy with it. I have seen it on TV and I like it, because he’s a strong guy, a tough guy, so for me that’s a good thing for me.
"But he wears a lot of gold and that’s not my style. Too much bling!”
Indeed, Tiote was so upset at losing the Africa Cup of Nations Final on penalties that he gave his runners-up medal away to a friend.
“I only wanted gold,” he explained.
But there is a valuable prize he is convinced Newcastle can secure now they have invested in new striker Papiss Cisse.
Tiote said: “I think we’ve got a good chance to finish in the top four. We’re a point behind Chelsea and Arsenal and we have everyone back in the squad. Demba Ba is back.
"If we keep playing like we do, I think we can stay in the top four.
“This team isn’t just about two or three players, it’s about the whole squad. It doesn’t matter if one or two of those are missing, it’s down to the team to come through that.
“I have discussed the race for Europe with [Chelsea forward and Ivory Coast team-mate] Salomon Kalou. I told him we’ll finish fourth, and Chelsea will finish seventh! He said, ‘Okay, then. We’ll see.’
“I suppose it shows the confidence I have in our team that I said it to him. If we keep working hard, everything’s possible and we can go for fourth.”
That would be way above the Toon's pre-season expectations - anything in the top six this season would be a massive bonus.
Tiote added: “I know a lot about Cisse and he will score many goals for us.
“The next three games [after Wolves, Newcastle host Sunderland in the derby then travel to Arsenal] are important, starting with looking to get a win on Saturday.
“I want to show the fans I’m back. The ANC is over now and I’m okay. Mentally I’m okay. I’ve put the disappointment behind me. It’s a couple of weeks ago now.
"I need to look to the future, not dwell on what’s happened.
“People back home were sad that we lost, but they understand what can happen in a penalty shoot-out. But this is all about Newcastle now. It is an exciting time.
“We need to stay focused and strong as a team. If we do that I think we’ll be okay.
"I watched the games while I was away - the Aston Villa match and the one against Spurs. It’s difficult to watch when you’re not playing.”
NEWCASTLE boss Alan Pardew is anxious to banish memories of the five-goal hammering at Spurs.
Last week’s FA Cup matches mean the Toon boss and his team have had two weeks to brood over a bad evening at White Hart Lane.
Pardew admitted he was partly responsible for the debacle after fielding an attacking line-up.
“It’s important as a player, if you make a mistake on the pitch, that you hold your hands up and you say, ‘I got that wrong’, he said.
“If you are the manager and you put a team out that didn’t function, then you also put your hand up, and I take some responsibility for that Tottenham game, no problem.”
Defender Mike Williamson will not underestimate Wolves.
“I pay no attention to the form guide or where they are in the league,” he said. “Take your eye off the ball and you are going to be punished, it’s as simple as that. That’s why for me, there are no foregone conclusions in this league.
“You have to prepare and play as well as you can, and keep to the standards you have set in previous weeks.”