Last Updated: Fri, 27 Sep 2013 14:29
Alan Pardew is backing Cheick Tiote to return to his best as he attempts to re-establish Newcastle as a Premier League force.
The Magpies found themselves engaged in a desperate fight for top-flight survival last season a year after a memorable surge into the top five, which secured an unexpected return to European football.
Continental action provided a fresh challenge for Pardew's men, but took a significant toll on their domestic commitments, and Tiote in particular struggled to reproduce the form which at various points had seen him linked with Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea.
A calf injury has limited Tiote's involvement so far this season, but having appeared as a late substitute in Saturday's disappointing 3-2 home defeat by Hull and started the 2-0 Capital One Cup third-round victory over Leeds on Wednesday, he is ready to begin his campaign in earnest.
Referring to his contribution in midweek, Pardew said: "On transition when we were attacking and we turned over the ball, we were more solid, and Tiote had a lot to do with that.
"He was back to near his best. He was a lot more comfortable in possession than last year. He looks more like himself and I am hoping for a big season from Cheick.
"I didn't think last year went well for Cheick in terms of the player he is, and that coincided with the team.
"When he's at his best, I think we are at our best and defensively on Saturday (against Hull) he could have made a difference.
"He gave us a little lift at Villa when he came on, so the signs are good. He has been unlucky to be out of the team because of injury and he has a chance now to reaffirm the quality he has."
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