Cheick Tiote dead: The Newcastle midfielder responsible for one of the Premier League's greatest moments

There is an inconsolable sadness in the football world that the man responsible for one of the Premier League's most dramatic finishes will not live beyond the age of 30

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The Independent Football

It was already one of the iconic images of the Premier League; Cheick Tiote wheeling away, arms and fists pumping, his face contorted in absolute delight and disbelief. He ran, chased by his Newcastle team-mates and then fell face down, arms still out wide, onto the sodden St James’ Park turf.

It was the 87th minute of a game against Arsenal in which Newcastle had trailed four-nil by the 26th minute. When Tiote struck the sweetest of left foot volleys from 35 yards, parity had been restored. The stadium erupted, Tiote was smothered in joyous team-mates, the then Newcastle manager Alan Pardew repeatedly punched the air, at the edge of his technical area.

"You have never seen anything like this," shouted a commentator. "It is the comeback to end all comebacks!"

That was February 2011.

At a quarter-to-five, six years and four months later, it was confirmed by Emanuel Palladino,the player’s agent, that Check Tiote had died.

There are times when there seems a mawkish clamour to offer sympathy in death in the age of social media. This was not one of them. Genuine sadness followed. Cheick Tiote was 30-years-old when he was taken ill after collapsing in training with the Chinese side, Bejing Enterprises. He was rushed to hospital. There he was pronounced dead.


It is not an age.

Tributes flowed.

Tiote was renowned as a tough-tackling midfielder (Getty)

"I cant believe it. No words. I am broken. RIP Cheick," said his former team-mate, the Newcastle forward, Ayoze Perez.

"Devastating news of the death of Cheick Tiote. RIP." tweeted Alan Shearer.

"It is with great sadness I have learned of Cheick’s death," said the Newcastle manager, Rafa Benitez. "He was a true professional, a great man, our hearts go out to his family and friends."

Former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote dies aged 30

Newcastle released a statement.

"We are devastated to have learnt of the tragic passing of former Newcastle United midfielder Cheick Tiote."

A strong man cut down in his prime.

It remains difficult to comprehend.

The Ivorian played for Twente under Steve McClaren (Getty)

Born on June 21, 1986, in Yamoussoukro, Tiote was one of ten children. It was said he had played football without boots when he was a youngster. He moved to Anderlecht in Belgium, was loaned to Roda JC and then made his name at FC Twente, where he won the Eredivise title in 2010 when Steve McClaren was in charge.

He moved to Newcastle United for what was considered a bargain £3.5 million that summer and it was on Tyneside where Tiote made his name. Indeed his impact was such that it remained a bone of contention whether Chris Hughton, who was manager in 2010, or the chief scout Graham Carr, had spotted him.

Both men knew of a player whose physicality and size seemed to increase when he crossed the white line. He was not the tallest, measuring five foot nine, but he was fearless, combative, a driving force at the heart of a Newcastle side who returned to the Premier League and made an impact. Tiote’s desire was at the heart of it.

He was a popular figure among his team-mates (Getty)

It had been on a club bonding trip during a paintball contest that Steven Taylor had seen the contradiction.

"Cheick, an absolute animal on the pitch, is like a little girl at paintballing," his team-mate had said in an interview in 2011. "He looks like he could run through a brick wall, but hit him with these little pellets of paint and he starts screaming."

But that was Tiote, someone who would relentlessly snap into the tackle during a game, and then offer shyness once it had finished. He enjoyed playing his Playstation at home when he first joined Newcastle. He was quiet but his team-mates loved him.

Tiote races to celebrate his most famous goal, against Arsenal (Getty)

Tiote’s debut for Newcastle had come at Everton in September 2010. Newcastle were a newly-promoted side. Kevin Nolan scored 12 goals in an attacking central midfield role that season. "Cheick’s unreal," he told me. "He takes care of everything behind me."

Tiote flourished under Pardew. He set a tone on the playing field and he did the same in training. When Tiote was at his best, a central midfielder who sought out physical confrontation, Newcastle finished fifth. When Pardew was recently asked who the two best players he had ever worked with were, he said Tiote was one of them.

Chelsea tracked a player who represented the Ivory Coast more than 50 times when he was in his pomp, but they did not make a move.

Tiote represented his country at two World Cups (Getty)

His impact lessened on Tyneside through injury and he became peripheral under Steve McClaren and then Rafa Benitez. Not playing bothered him and he sought a move, finally, after 156 appearances for Newcastle, joining the Chinese second division side Bejing Enterprises in February, earlier this year.

He had played in a 4-2 win on Saturday but little had been heard of Tiote, not anyway, until the news broke, that he had died, at the age of 30, from a heart attack.

It remains difficult to comprehend.

To the drama of a truly thrilling four-four draw at St James’ Park in 2011, a genuinely unforgettable game of football, now comes the overwhelming sadness that the man who provided the dramatic finish would not live beyond the age of 30.

His partner, it has been revealed, was expecting a baby.

The football world mourns.