ALAN Pardew has outlined the importance of keeping his “warrior” Cheick Tioté at Newcastle United past the January transfer window – even though he knows a “silly money” bid might yet take the matter out of his hands.
The United boss met Mike Ashley in the North East yesterday to discuss defensive recruitment plans, but it is the name of his star midfielder that remains on everyone’s lips with a tense January transfer window around the corner.
The Andy Carroll scenario taught everyone on Tyneside that the Newcastle board is not immune if an offer is tabled for one of the club’s star players that is large enough, and Pardew is canny enough to admit Tioté is in the same boat.
Chelsea and Tottenham have both watched him over the last 12 months while Manchester United, shorn of Darren Fletcher for the “foreseeable future”, have also been credited with an interest.
Tioté does not want to leave, though – sentiments that Pardew shares as he looks forward to a possible Saturday return for his key man.
The likelihood of that is officially rated at “50-50”, although the smart money is on Mehdi Abeid or Haris Vuckic joining Yohan Cabaye in the engine room for the visit of Swansea.
Pardew admits United are “vulnerable” on Tioté, simply because he is such a good player.
“He’s a big target because he’s a great player. Great players will be targeted. We’re always on our guard with Cheick – we realise that to us he’s very important. It would be very difficult to get him out of here.”
Responding to queries over the player’s mental state, he said the rumours haven’t affected Tioté. “He has been unsettled but because of his injury. I don’t think it is anything else past that. He is one of those who wants to train and play. Put the ball in front of him, he’ll go through the hole to get it. We hope he will train in next couple of days, so we will see.
“We have missed him. You do miss someone of that presence and that power on the pitch. You’ve always got 11 players but take a key one out and you are going to miss him. I have to say Danny Guthrie was absolutely brilliant in the spell when Cheick was out, but he needed to be because that is how important Cheick is.
“He brings a winning personality on to the pitch. Forget about what he does. He wants to win the game, nothing is more enlightening about that type of personality than his goal against Arsenal. That’s him.
“He is a warrior. Our warrior. And he will look after our team and his team-mates. The bookings and all that he gets sometimes, never does he do anything malicious, it is always about trying to win the game. You cannot argue about that.”
Pardew would not be drawn on the impending move for Modibo Maïga, although made a coded reference to the striker when asked about the number of players United intend to recruit.
“In terms of players coming in, there’s certainly one player will come in and we’re hoping two if we don’t lose anyone,” he said. After a run of four games without a win, a United defeat of Swansea would answer critics who feel their bubble has burst after a flying start.
Pardew certainly feels that a possible return for Fabricio Coloccini or Mike Williamson – “brilliant last season” – will aid the team. “I thought that with all due respect to Norwich, they got us at the right time. We didn’t have a natural centre-half fit. They exploited that situation – that’s what you have to do.
“We know its an important game on Saturday – we know its an important period around Christmas. If we can get ourselves over that 30-point mark by Christmas Day, that’d be fantastic.
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