Cheick Tiote with Kian and Craig Heneghan


By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor

An inspirational youngster visited Newcastle's training ground on Thursday to be reunited with the man who helped him take his first steps: Magpies midfielder Cheick Tiote.

Soldier Craig Heneghan had never seen his son, Kian, walk until the seven-year-old - who suffers from Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome which causes delayed growth and development, intellectual disability and seizures - was invited to be the Magpies' mascot for November's home game against Liverpool.

It was then, on the St. James' Park pitch before the 2-2 draw, that stand-in captain Tiote took the boy from his father's arms and helped him stride onto the turf as proud Craig and his wife, Madeline, watched open-mouthed.

As the emotional moment unfolded, Craig - from Tynemouth - took a picture on his mobile phone then, several weeks later, sent the photograph to Tiote.

The Ivorian was keen to meet the boy again and so the Club welcomed him and his father, recently back from a tour of Afghanistan, to the Club's Benton HQ where Kian amazed everyone with his progress as he met Alan Pardew and the players before being presented with a signed print.

Craig said: "Before that Liverpool game, I'd seen Kian sort of bimbling along on a couple of occasions but I'd never seen him walk properly. I'd been told that I could carry him onto the pitch before kick-off.

"But Cheick came over and said 'I'll look after him' and put his arms around him. Then, with Cheick's help, Kian started taking steps. It was literally the first time I'd seen him walk properly, on the St. James' Park pitch.

"The best moment for me was when he kicked the ball ever so softly and it trickled over the line. The whole Gallowgate end cheered and I'll never forget it.

Cheick Tiote and Kian Heneghan

"I had a lump in my throat; I was really, really proud. Kian was a little star that day and the players - particularly Cheick, Tim Krul, Mike Williamson, Sammy Ameobi and Papiss Cisse - were amazing with him. They really did spend time with him and cared for him.

"Since then, he's progressed so well. I still have to hold his hand but he walks all over the place now. He doesn't like to be in his chair for too long.

"At the next match we went to watch, he started pointing at the pitch wanting to be back on it again!

"He loves going to the matches and to come and to meet Cheick again and watch the team train was fantastic. He's had such a great day."

Tiote added: "It was very good to see Kian again.

"When I saw the photograph, I remembered him straight away and if I was able to help him in any way, that makes me feel very proud."