One to Watch - Cheik Tioté
Name: Cheik Tioté
Date of Birth: 21/6/86
Nationality: Ivory Coast
Former Clubs: Anderlecht, Roda JC, FC Twente
League Appearances (Goals): 117 (4)
International Appearances (Goals): 19 (0)
Stat of the Day: Cheik Tioté, last season, became the first player to be given 14 yellow cards in a single PL season since Robbie Savage in 2001/02 (ending up with 15 in total)
It`s not often a defence-minded player features in our One to Watch section, but any team sporting Leon Best as their centre forward clearly has attacking problems. Cheik Tioté (despite apparent discrepancies in how Tioté`s first name is actually spelt, I`ve decided to trustingly employ the spelling Newcastle United`s official website offers) is a player I`ve personally admired since his arrival in England (my admiration enhancing significantly after his spectacular equaliser against Arsenal in that 4-4 thriller), earmarking him as a potential signing for a Chelsea or Arsenal in the not too distant future. With QPR exhibiting their fresh array of attacking talent on Monday night, Tioté will be the one quashing any QPR attacks, whilst at the same time patrolling Newcastle`s defensive third linking the back four and attacking players whilst in possession.
Tioté`s energy and power make him the defensive powerhouse he is, whilst his consistent passing ability leaves him rarely caught in possession. His passing statistics are up there with the best in the Premier League, whilst that and his aerial ability have quickly led him to becoming a Toon favourite. For all his strengths, however, his insistence on shielding two or three players off at a time means he gets himself into many physical challenges - the reason for his love of yellow cards. Watch out for the Ivorian - he could be the difference between QPR scoring 0 or 3.
Numerous internet sources claim Tioté started out playing barefoot street football in the capital of the Ivory Coast, not owning a pair of football boots until he was 15. Whether this is indeed true I have no idea, but as it seems like quite an endearing story we`ll go with it. He began his initial career with Ivorian minor league side FC Bibo, before being scouted by Belgian side Anderlecht in 2005. He made his first team debut at the age of just 19, also making a Champions League appearance, before a loan move took him to Dutch side Roda JC for the 2007/2008 season.
His spell in Holland was obviously prosperous as he signed for FC Twente in October 2008 for a fee reported to be around €750,000. He won the Dutch title in 2009/2010 under ex-England manager Steven McClaren, featuring in both the Europa League and Champions League. After 58 league appearances for the Dutch Eredivisie side he joined Newcastle United on 26 August 2010 for a fee of £3.5 million.
His bullish and impressive performances soon endeared him to the hearts of the Newcastle fans, as he started all of the Magpies league games after his debut against Everton on 18 September 2010. His 25 yard volley against in the 4-4 against Arsenal was one of many highlights during the season, and his many eye catching displays meant he was linked with many of Europe`s top clubs. However, on 25 February 2011, Newcastle announced that the 25-year-old penned a new 6-and-a-half year deal, keeping the Ivorian at Newcastle until 2017. Upon signing his new deal, Tioté said 'The experience of playing in the Premier League has been better than I ever hoped it could be. This is a great club and the fans have been brilliant - I have never known support like it.` Tioté has also enjoyed a successful spell with his national side, making 20 appearances, including 3 appearances at the 2010 World Cup.