Tiote is Newcastle’s Essien

Tioté battling with Manchester City's Yaya Toure

When it comes to holding midfielders there are few better than Michael Essien.

The Chelsea and Ghana stalwart is fierce but fair in the tackle, has an eye for a pass and marshals the midfield with aplomb.

Couple that with Essien’s excellent positional awareness, work rate and tackling ability, and you would be hard pushed to find a better defensive midfielder in the modern game.

‘The water carrier’ was how Eric Cantona described the role and it is one in which Newcastle’s Cheik Tioté is flourishing.

After a nomadic professional career spent in the Benelux nations of Belgium and Holland, more than a few eyebrows were raised when Newcastle forked out a reported fee of GBP3.5million for him.

Tioté, though, has come to the fore in the Barclays English Premier League, fresh from winning the Dutch Eredivisie title with FC Twente last season.

“He’ll be a big favourite at Newcastle – the fans should take to him straight away,” said Steve McClaren, who managed the Tukkers to the title, shortly after Tioté’s move.

“Cheik’s a physical player, but also very fair. He’s got a good engine, and could prove a real hit at Newcastle.

“He’ll be ideal for them, especially in away games when he can sit in front of the back four.

“He was a very valuable member of my squad. However, in the Dutch system of football, he didn’t get as many games as he deserved.

“Now he will be even more suited to Premier League football. He’s a very strong and athletic player. He’s a natural ball winner, and he’ll acclimatise very well to the English game.”

It seems McClaren was right as Newcastle manager Alan Pardew has been hugely impressed by the Ivory Coast international during his time at St James’ Park.

“He reminds me of Essien, if I am honest, he is that type,” said the former Southampton, West Ham and Charlton boss.

“He needs to learn that in and around our third, he needs to be a lot safer – he can be a bit loose there – and he needs to be more progressive in his play.

“There is so much more to come from him if we can get him out of just popping it off safely.

“When he attacks teams and runs at them, he could be as effective for us as Essien is for Chelsea.”

Like Essien, the Ivory Coast midfielder began the millennium playing football in his homeland.

Born in Yamoussoukro, Tioté started out playing barefoot street football and admitted he did not own a pair of boots until he was 15.

Soon after, though, he was spotted by the aforementioned Belgian giants of Anderlecht, making four appearances after graduating from the youth system before moving on loan to Roda JC to hone his skills.

Such was Tioté’s impact during the 2007/08 season that he snaffled by Twente, where he would go onto become a vital component in the club’s unprecedented success.

Now, having turned in a stunning individual display in Sunday’s 1-0 EPL win at Wigan, the 25-year-old is aiming to lead Newcastle to glory.

The 24-year-old’s industry in the middle of the park has proved invaluable to Newcastle since his arrival, and while Pardew admits he still has much to learn – he has already amassed nine yellow cards – he is in little doubt as to his potential.

“When I arrived, I could tell he was a very, very good player from what I had seen on TV, and when I reviewed the DVDs of previous games, it just reinforced that,” he added.

“To watch him from the sideline, his energy and his power, he is as strong in possession as you will find.

“Sometimes, he invites trouble because he is holding two or three players off and he gets himself into physical challenges and he takes too many bookings.

“But because of the power he has, he has such confidence that he can hold people off.

“It frightens me to death at times, but he is such a brilliant character.”


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