Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew is calling on Cheick Tiote to take on more responsibility following the departure of Yohan Cabaye.
Cabaye left St James' Park for Paris Saint-Germain in the January transfer window, and Newcastle embarked on a dreadful run of form thereafter, losing three straight Premier League games and conceding 10 goals in the process.
Tiote missed the last two of those matches - 3-0 and 4-0 defeats to Chelsea and Tottenham respectively - with a hamstring injury, but returned to the side for their 1-0 win over Aston Villa last Sunday.
And Pardew has urged the 27-year-old Ivory Coast international, who joined Newcastle from Twente in 2010, to become a leader within the squad.
"He is an important player to us," he said.
"And the captaincy when 'Colo' (Fabricio Coloccini) was out changed him a little bit.
"He knows now that in my mind, he is our vice-captain and he has to play the role that that involves.
"It's a big club, so he has a lot of responsibility and he's dealing with it very well. In fact, it's spurred him on."
Pardew is also hopeful that misfiring striker Papiss Cisse will return to form between now and the end of the season.
Cisse has just one Premier League goal to his name this season - a penalty in the 5-1 rout of Stoke City on Boxing Day - but the former West Ham boss is hopeful the Senegalese forward can get back to his best.
"Papiss isn't the type to blame anyone, he looks to himself," Pardew told the Shields Gazette.
"He's obviously desperate for a goal, and that could kick-start him. This weekend he might have the opportunity to do that.
"I certainly hope he does. I think he's a good guy, and he's done well for us. We want to get him back playing at his best again."comments