Speaking on a Tyneside phone-in yesterday evening, quoted by the Chronicle, Newcastle United manager Steve McClaren revealed his future plans for tenacious Magpies midfielder Cheick Tiote.
The 29-year-old, who has been absent from the club's pre-season tour due to Visa complications, had been linked with an exit this summer.
McClaren is well aware of Tiote’s capabilities from their time together at FC Twente. However, earlier reports - as per the Daily Mail - suggested the Ivorian had played his last ever game for the Magpies.
The midfielder made just 11 appearances for Newcastle last season as he missed the start of last season through fitness concerns and after playing in the first half of the campaign, was injured while on international duty at the Africa Cup of Nations.
Sources close to the player - as per the Chronicle - had suggested he could be prepared to quit St. James' Park this summer with Turkish side Trabzonspor already credited with interest in the battling midfield man.
Nonetheless, McClaren has now had his say on the 29-year-old's situation, and it seems as if he is well within the club's future plans.
According to the Chronicle, he said: “I know Cheicky very well"
“I want him fit and playing.
“I’ve seen him here and he had a couple of great seasons.
“I just remember one game against Man United and he was absolutely brilliant, and that’s what he’s capable of doing.
“We have to get him fit.”
If McClaren's intentions are deemed true, the player's fitness remains the single hurdle to overcome before he makes his first-team return for the Magpies.
Tiote has been a key player for Newcastle ever since his arrival from Twente in 2010, and he could prove vital for the club as Steve McClaren strives for top flight consolidation throughout his debut campaign as the St. James' chief.
With Aleksandar Mitrovic and Georginio Wijnaldum spearheading the club's efforts in attack, the Ivorian will be tasked with offering defensive protection to the club's back-four; a role he fulfils so well.
A strong tackler, a force in the air and a confident distributor of possession, Tiote was dearly missed by the Magpies during his spells of absence last season and his return will only serve to stabilise an otherwise lightweight defensive unit.
Newcastle fans may be happy to replace the Ivorian following his treatment of the club throughout the past 12 months, but if he gets his head down, stays injury free and proves himself again under Steve McClaren, he could go some way to redeeming himself.