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Tiote puts mental scars from derby red card behind him
CHEICK TIOTE has revealed the mental scars of being sent off in last season’s Wear-Tyne derby contributed to his severe dip in form, but the Newcastle United midfielder believes the responsibility of wearing the captain’s armband is the reason behind his impressive displays of late.
Tiote was sent off in the 25th minute of Newcastle’s 1-1 draw at the Stadium of Light last year for a tackle on Steven Fletcher, but the Ivorian midfielder thought the decision was harsh because there was no malice in the challenge.
After returning from suspension, the 27-year-old struggled to regain the form he produced in his first season on Tyneside, but in recent weeks Tiote has demonstrated a renewed sense of leadership and discipline.
When Fabricio Coloccini was ruled out through injury during the last international break, Pardew handed Tiote the captain’s armband despite his reputation for ill-discipline, but the decision appears to be paying dividends.
Tiote has been Newcastle’s best player in recent weeks with impressive performances against Cardiff, Liverpool and Sunderland and the Ivory Coast international believes being given the responsibility of captaining the side has helped build up the confidence he lost last season.
“The red card at Sunderland really affected me a lot,” Tiote revealed. “More than I realised at the time. When you get a red card, it is very difficult to come back in and play with the same intensity. It really hits your confidence. And of course injuries did not help either.
“This year, I have had no red cards and that has helped. A red card affects the way you approach games. You ask yourself what you are doing wrong. You lose confidence because you think the referee is always going to be looking at you. You become paranoid and fear to make tackles. This year, I have improved and put it right.
“I think I look good. I am doing my job. I enjoy the captaincy and am playing well. I need to carry on playing like this, driving the team forward, trying to help us win games. I really enjoy being captain.”
While Pardew’s decision to hand a player that has accumulated 43 yellow cards in three seasons the captaincy may have raised a few eyebrows, the Magpies boss knew the skipper’s duty of going into the referee’s dressing room prior to games would benefit Tiote.
“It is a big responsibility,” the midfielder said. “I certainly did not expect to be captain but was delighted and need to show an example to everyone.
“I think he chose me as captain because he wants me to be more responsible on the pitch. When you are the leader, you need to show an example to everyone. I like to think I have done that.
“I think I am playing my best football for a long time. I must admit last season, I did not play well at all. I was poor at times. But this season, I feel really good and think that is shown in my performances.
“It helps being captain because that means I see the referee before the game. I joke and say ‘please do not book me’ but seriously, we have a conversation and they tell me that I have to show the rest of the players a good example.
“As captain you are not allowed to do certain things on the pitch. I tell him not to book me but I still go out there and give 100 per cent but make sure I stay on the pitch and finish the game.
“I am more mature now. I think I have learnt a lot from that very bad experience at Sunderland. I certainly do not want to go through it ever again.
“I got my second booking of the season last night and was disappointed because I did not think it was a bad challenge. But you will always pick up a few yellow cards over a season.”
Tiote is likely to keep the armband for today’s visit of Chelsea and the former Twente midfielder believes the Stamford Bridge outfit will be even harder to beat under Jose Mourinho.
He said: “I haven’t come across Mourinho before. Chelsea are always tough and will be even tougher with him in charge because everyone knows what a good manager he is. He knows everything about football. But we will do our best to win the game.”
Tiote is currently sporting a Mohawk haircut, a style that has led Newcastle supporters to liken his appearance to that of A-team star Mr T, and although he was only one when the last episode of the television series was aired, the midfielder find the comparison amusing.
He said: “I’m quite happy if the fans think I look like Mr T. That is good but the A team was a long time ago. Many will not remember.
“But I have no intention of changing my hairstyle. I like it. It is a cool look. Maybe one day I will change it but not now.”
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