Steve McClaren has joined those paying tribute to Cheick Tiote.
The former Newcastle player tragically dying at the age of 30 after collapsing during a training session with Beijing Enterprises FC on Monday.
McClaren was Tiote’s Manager/Head Coach at both FC Twente and Newcastle, describing the midfielder as ‘the toughest player I have ever seen’.
In his nine months as Newcastle Head Coach, Steve McClaren gave Cheick Tiote 13 Premier League appearances, nine as a starter and four off the bench, the player having another injury ravaged season.
The former Newcastle boss says it was always the Ivory Coast international’s dream to play in China because of the money on offer.
However, rather than the cash being for himself, Steve McClaren said that instead it was so he could continue to look after his extended family, with ‘uncles, aunts, grandparents’ all relying on the player ‘to look after them’.
Steve McClaren talking to BBC Radio 5 Live:
“At Newcastle if Papiss Cisse and Cheick Tiote were smiling I knew the world was OK.
“He was the kind of player that everyone wants in their team.
“I knew him first as a young player at Twente and he was the toughest player I have ever seen.
“On the field and in training he was such a competitor, he wanted to win every game, kick every player – win every tackle.
“He was a winner…I just can’t believe it.
“Some days we would have to pull him out of training because he was such a ferocious competitor, such a winner.
“He was a warrior and could play too.
“It was his dream to play in China and I was so delighted for him when it happened – he earned money to look after his family.
“He loved playing football to look after his family.
“All the relatives: uncles, aunts, grandparents, they all relied on him to look after them.”