Maturing Tiote fine-tuning aggressive style

Posted by Lee Ryder

Graham Stuart/Getty ImagesSince last year's red card at Sunderland, Newcastle's Chiek Tiote has matured and is now one of the Magpies' leaders.

Cheik Tiote will lead Newcastle United out at the Stadium of Light this Sunday, and he will be looking for derby day closure.

Last season, the Ivory Coast star was red-carded in the fixture for a high tackle on Sunderland's Steven Fletcher.

The incident unfolded when the Magpies were in full control and leading through Yohan Cabaye's early strike.

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And while it took Sunderland until the dying stages to earn a draw, many felt that Tiote's dismissal was the key factor as United were forced to battle on for more than an hour of the game.

When the dust settled, a point with 10 men away from home didn't seem like a bad result. However, for Tiote, it was part of a stop-start campaign for the Magpies.

Make no mistake, Tiote remains a fan favourite, but the knowledgeable St James' Park crowd know when a player is close to being dropped.

It could be argued that Tiote has never rediscovered the same form he displayed since his first season in 2010-11.

He arrived in the Premier League as an unknown quantity from FC Twente but quickly found his feet and was soon being touted by bigger clubs such as Manchester United, who sent chief scout Martin Ferguson out to run the rule over the African ace.

Yet Tiote's form nosedived from his first campaign as injuries began to affect him and he endured a spate of what could only be described as "second-season syndrome".

Last season was also nothing to write home about for Tiote, who admitted at the end of the campaign he knew he'd been disappointing.

Now, though, Tiote is back.

He was tremendous at Cardiff City and not only controlled the play in the engine room alongside Cabaye, but showed he has learned to time his tackles to good effect.

Before the Liverpool game he was handed a huge vote of confidence by Alan Pardew.

The Toon boss handed him the captain's armband despite having last season's vice-captain Cabaye available and willing to take it back. Many wondered if tough-tackling Cheik would be able to balance his own aggressive style with the responsibility of leading the team, but he managed it against Liverpool with credit.

Another man-of-the-match display followed. Despite United being reduced to 10 men, the Magpies dug in and it was Tiote's leadership skills that helped bag a point.

Tiote, though, leads in a different way. He isn't a vocal skipper and much like Fabricio Coloccini he led by example. This time he didn't dive in, didn't lose his rag and didn't let the red mist spoil his performance.

Now comes the ultimate test on Wearside.

He will lead the charge in midfield alongside Cabaye, but Pardew must decide whether to go 4-3-3 or keep things a little more compact and operate with the false number 9 as he did against the Kop side.

Cool heads are always needed in the derby, but for Tiote the game offers him the chance of closure as he bids to wipe away bad memories of his red card.

Certainly, it could all come full circle for the Toon star as he looks to show new levels of maturity at the Stadium of Light.

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