BROODING Cheick Tiote is suffering an identity crisis, admits Alan Pardew.
Newcastle United’s Ivorian enforcer returned to action in Belgium promising to take measures to improve his disciplinary record, but the results were not particularly edifying.
Tiote was below par and picked up his 31st booking in 61 games in the Jan Breydelstadion – a disappointing statistic made even worse by the prospect of a one-match European ban which will rule him out of the St James’ Park clash with Maritimo in a fortnight.
Given their woeful record so far, negotiating that game should not be a problem for a Newcastle side who have already illustrated their ability to adapt to European football.
However, the bigger picture is a bit more concerning for Tiote, who seemed to be pulling out of challenges as Newcastle roared back from a terrible start in Bruges.
His importance to the cause was there for all to see on Sunday as Newcastle failed to get a midfield foothold at Anfield in the early stages and Pardew is desperate for him to start resembling his old self again.
However, the Newcastle boss knows there is work to do – both on and off the pitch for the suffering midfielder.
Pardew said: “He played like he was protecting himself.
“People who know him well will know he pulled out of three challenges and picked up a booking for a silly little pull.
“It is affecting him, there’s no doubt about that, and it will do for the next period.
“He is such an important player for us. He will have to serve this new suspension and hopefully come back roaring in the Premier League because when he is at his best he is one of the best players in the Premier League.”
Tiote’s disappointing display was one of the few negatives on an otherwise impressive evening for Newcastle, who were backed by a vocal minority in Bruges.
Pardew’s contention Newcastle “started well” was a surprise but it was difficult to argue with his opinion a draw in Belgium represented an excellent return for Newcastle – especially after collapsing to a two-goal deficit before the 20-minute mark.
He reflected: “I thought we started quite well, if I am honest. We had a good foothold in the game – I thought Brugge looked a little bit nervous.
“Then we gifted them a goal, and then gifted another one, if I am honest.
“I was surprised because I felt we were in good shape and we were creating chances.
“We should have scored – Sylvain had a great chance right in the middle of the goal, the pitch probably defeated him.
“However, I wasn’t too concerned. I thought we would score goals, it was just important not to let any more in.
“We were given a great goal from Anita after a good bit of pressure and then immediately got the second before half-time, which was a bonus, really.
“We came in at half-time in a strong position and all we did second half was just make sure defensively we were sound.
“Apart from a few breakaways and two set-plays, I thought we were and it was just about whether we were going to score the winner.
“We hit the bar and had two good situations, but overall I am delighted. Two-nil down at Bruges, it is tough.”
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