Family man Tiote happy on Tyneside
Published 22:56 29/10/11 By Brian McNally
Cheick Tiote is convinced a trouble-torn, poverty-stricken upbringing in west Africa makes him strong.
So strong in fact that Ivory Coast Tiote earned an instant reputation as the Premier League’s most ferocious battler in his Newcastle debut season.
An astonishing total of 14 yellow cards made him the most booked man in the English top-flight last term - equalling the all-time record held jointly by Welshmen Robbie Savage and Mark Hughes.
And what makes tough-guy Tiote’s unenviable disciplinary record- which also included one red card-all the more intriguing is that he honed his tackling technique playing barefoot as a kid.
But now Tiote- a £3.5m snip from Dutch side FC Twente- pledges that he has learned from the indiscretions of that first season in England.
And he insists that mentally he is now in a better place after his Ivorian homeland - where the five brothers and three sisters he supports with his Newcastle wages live- clawed itself back from the brink of a bloody civil war.
Tiote- whose parents are dead- had to move his family from his hometown of Abidjan to a safe house as the death toll mounted and he admits that affected his football.
He said: “Thankfully, everything is fine now. I had to move my family to another place because it was a difficult moment for everyone there.
“Now they’re back in Abidjan. I moved my family to be clear in my head. When you are thinking about your family in Africa it’s hard to stay focused on your job. My family is very important to me. I send money home to help them.”
Tiote admits that the grinding poverty of his youth has made him appreciative of the riches on offer to Premier League players.
He explained: “Coming from my background, you learn to appreciate what you have when you come to England.
“It is not the same in Africa.
“It is very difficult to play football over there - there are no facilities, no money to do everything you want to do. I had no boots until I was 15 and played barefoot
“You come over to Europe and you have everything - you are given everything. The ball, the kits... You have everything.
“In Africa you have to be strong, so strong mentally to make it. You need to believe in yourself to go forward.
“Playing in that environment you need to believe in yourself. That is what it gives you.”
Tiote insists,despite interest from Chelsea where his big Ivorian international pal Didier Drogba plays, that he happy on Tyneside and is working hard on trying to stay out of referee’s notebooks.
Tiote, already booked three times this season, added: “Last season was my first in England and it was difficult for me. I didn’t know exactly what the Premier League was about.
“I was desperate to show to the people the quality that I had so I was working hard, tackling hard. But this season, I think it’ll be OK with referees.
“I am happy at Newcastle and I have a long contract. Every player wants to play in Europe and I am no different. I think Newcastle can get into Europe.”
Tiote’s boss Alan Pardew admits his midfield enforcer faces a battle with injury for tomorrow’s clash at Stoke after missing the Carling Cup exit at Blackburn with a knee problem.
Pardew said: “To play someone like Blackburn or Stoke you want your warriors and we missed two of our biggest warriors on Wednesday at Ewood when Steven Taylor and Tiote were both out. We would like both to be able to play at Stoke.”