Premier League Career: Newcastle United (2010-2016)
Cheick Tiote had a very impressive football career. A title winner in the Netherlands and part of the Ivory Coast squad that won the 2015 African Cup of Nations, he spent seven seasons with Newcastle United and always gave his all to the club. He was a fans’ favourite and he will be dearly missed by so many in the game.
He arrived on Tyneside in the summer of 2010 after impressing for Anderlecht in Belgium, then being part of the FC Twente squad that surprised Dutch heavyweights Ajax and PSV Eindhoven to win the 2009-2010 Eredivisie title. Steve McClaren was in charge of the club at the time and he would recommend Tiote to the Newcastle board before signing on at St James’ Park. On joining the club, he told the Newcastle Evening Chronicle: “It’s a great thrill for me to be joining such a famous club as Newcastle United.”
His debut was an impressive one at Goodison Park against Everton. Newcastle won the game 1-0 with a brilliant strike from Hatem Ben Afra but it was Tiote’s control of the midfield that won many plaudits. He achieved a 100% pass success rate, was successful in every tackle he made and even managed a shot on target, which wasn’t one of his main strengths.
In February 2011, he went down in Newcastle folklore with his one and only goal for the club. Tiote hit an unstoppable 25-yard volley to complete the club’s amazing comeback in a home match with Arsenal. Alan Pardew’s side were 4-0 down at half-time but came back to claim an unlikely and heroic draw. Tiote’s goal was voted in the Premier League’s top three strikes of the season.
Many believed his best season came in 2011-2012. Despite a knee injury in October that sidelined him for two months and international commitments, Tiote made 24 appearances in all competitions and played a major role in the club’s outstanding season. His shielding role protected the defenders and enabled the creative talents of Ben Arfa, Yohan Cabaye and Papiss Cisse to sparkle. Newcastle went into the final day still with an outside chance of qualifying for the UEFA Champions League. A 3-1 defeat to Everton ensured they would finish fifth but above Chelsea and Liverpool FC. Two seasons after returning to the top-flight, life felt good for the Geordie faithful.
Tiote was linked to several Premier League clubs that summer. Manchester United and Arsenal both made tentative enquiries but Newcastle insisted he wasn’t for sale. 2012-2013 was a disappointing season for player and club and saw him pick up the only red card of his Newcastle league career in a Tyne & Wear derby against Sunderland.
Pardew noted his leadership qualities though in the dressing room and when Fabricio Coloccini was ruled out of a game against Liverpool FC in October 2013, Tiote wore the armband for the first time in his Newcastle career. In January 2014, he scored a fantastic goal against Manchester City which was controversially and wrongly disallowed by the officials. Tiote was already celebrating what he thought was only his second goal for the club but Mike Jones chalked the goal off. He believed Yoan Gouffran had interfered with Joe Hart’s vision of the strike. It was an extremely harsh decision.
Injuries started to take their toll and when Pardew left to fill the Crystal Palace vacancy in January 2015, Tiote’s form tailed off. He was linked to moves abroad but despite interest from Russian and Turkish clubs, no formal bids were made. In 2015-2016, he often had to play back-up to Moussa Sissoko and Georginio Wijnaldum and he couldn’t stop the club sliding back into the Championship.
With the likes of Jack Colback and Isaac Hayden now part of the Newcastle midfield choices; Rafa Benitez elected to keep Tiote for the 2016-2017 campaign but only as a squad player. He came off the bench in a 1-1 draw with Aston Villa and featured in both FA Cup third round ties against Birmingham City in January 2017. However, his days at the club were numbered.
He was sold to the riches of the Chinese League, joining Beijing Enterprises in February 2017. He appeared in every league match for the side including a 4-2 win on Saturday, 3 June against Yingli Yitong in a 4-2 victory.
On 5 June 2017, Tiote suffered a suspected heart attack in training with his Chinese club and collapsed. He was rushed to hospital but despite the best efforts of medical staff, he died later in the day. He was just 30-years-old.
Whilst at Newcastle, he discussed about his upbringing, mentioning: “Growing up in Abidjan, I knew what I wanted to do and made sure that this was going to be my life. But I worked and worked and worked for it and it is because of that hard work that I have managed to make it.”
Cheick Tiote leaves behind many memories for Newcastle United fans. His death is a sad end to a strong and combative career which provided moments many won’t forget – especially that goal against Arsenal.
My thoughts are with Newcastle United, Beijing Enterprises and Cheick’s family and friends.
Cheick Tiote – 1986-2017
TRIBUTES TO CHEICK TIOTE
Rafa Benitez (Newcastle United manager): “It is with great sadness that I have this afternoon learned of Cheick’s death. In all the time that I have known him, he was a true professional, dedicated, talented, and above all, a great man. Our hearts go out to his family and friends at such a sad time.”
Alan Pardew (Newcastle United manager – 2010-2014): “From the moment I arrived at Newcastle, Cheick was a wonderful presence around the dressing room and his performances on the field often defied belief. None of us will ever forget that incredible day when our Newcastle team came from 4-0 down to draw an unbelievable Premier League game against Arsenal, with Cheick’s incredible goal in the final moments of that game one of the iconic moments in Premier League history.”
“To hear the news that he has passed away at the age of 30 breaks my heart and my sympathies go out to all his family and friends who will be devastated by this news. Life if not fair sometimes and I will remember Cheick Tiote as a giant of a midfielder who I loved to managed. I loved him. He’s everything that you want in a Newcastle player. He has the quality, and of course you’ll never underestimate the fact that he wants to win.”
Yohan Cabaye (Crystal Palace player): “May God watch over you! Words fail me to describe my sadness…I’m really devastated. We will all miss you.” #RIPCheicky
Lynsey Hipgrave (Newcastle fan and presenter of the Football League show on Channel Five): “So shocked & saddened to hear of the passing of Cheick Tioté, so so young. Thoughts with his friends & family. #nufcfamily
Siem de Jong (Ex-Newcastle teammate of Tiote): “Terrible news, R.I.P. Tiote. Always enjoyed sitting next to you in the dressing room my friend.”
Paul Dummett (Newcastle United player): “Gutted to hear the news. A real nice guy. He helped me a lot as I was breaking into the first team so I can’t thank him enough.