CHEICK Tiote believes that returning to Europe will transform Newcastle United - and help to keep the club's crown jewels.
United’s return to Continental competition was rubber stamped yesterday by Everton’s failure to win at Old Trafford, hot on the heels of the Magpies’ brilliant 3-0 win over Stoke the previous day.
It means Newcastle are assured of Europa League football next season at the very least.
However, the Champions League and a potential £20million cash injection is still on the agenda after Alan Pardew’s men moved three points clear in fourth place.
The guaranteed return of European football will alter Newcastle’s five-year plan and is a major shot in the arm for the club and their summer ambitions.
It will be a big selling point for United in their efforts to recruit players and a big consideration if clubs table offers for some of the stars who have sent the Magpies soaring again.
The usual suspects continue to be linked with clubs who have previously been able to offer guaranteed Champions League football.
But with Europe now assured, Tiote thinks the allure of moving on will be dimmed.
Instead, the likes of Yohan Cabaye – brilliant on Saturday – and Demba Ba will find themselves able to fulfil their ambitions on Tyneside.
“It is great – it is very important for this football club,” Tiote said. “For a long time the fans have not had European football but now, next season, we will be in European competition.
“It is great for the club, the fans and for everyone. It will definitely convince players to stay.
“It is important. If the team is playing in Europe, it is better for us to keep our best players.
“It will be difficult to keep our very best players if we are not playing in Europe, so to achieve this is good.
“We have a very good squad here, it is not just about one or two players – it is about the squad.”
Although the Europa League is a nice safety net, the Champions League is tantalisingly close for an in-form Newcastle – who secured a remarkable sixth straight win at the weekend.
They moved into fourth in the Premier League on Saturday and despite a difficult run-in which includes Manchester City and Chelsea, form and momentum is on their side.
Tottenham and Chelsea, by contrast, seem to be stumbling towards the line.
However, the Blues would clinch their place among the cream of Continental competition – and deny one to the fourth-placed side – by winning the Champions League this season. They face Barcelona in a semi-final second leg tie on Tuesday.
United boss Alan Pardew may be willing to talk about it, but the message has gone to the players not to become embroiled in the hype of the top-four push.
And Tiote is treading a cautious line on their Champions League bid, as the mantra continues to be taking one game at a time. The Ivory Coast midfielder said: “I don’t think the other Champions League teams fear us yet.
“There are too many good teams in the Premier League – we still have a lot of games to play and we must do everything we can to win every game.
“As soon as we start to think we have done it, we will go in bad form and lose one game which could be important. For now I am focused on the Wigan game, all of the team are. We are not thinking about the Champions League.”
If his side were to clinch a place in Europe’s top competition, Pardew would be a very strong contender for manager of the season – and Tiote is in no doubt about the importance of the boss.
He said: “He has been great with us. When the manager came, a lot of fans didn’t believe he would do a good job. Now everyone knows he is doing a good job. We’re playing well and I am very happy for him because he is showing what a very good manager he is.
“He always believed in us – and now we are repaying him.”
:: FABRICIO Coloccini was last night named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year, the North East’s only representative. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie was named Player of the Year and Tottenham’s Kyle Walker Young Player of the Year.