Papiss Cisse has admitted to enduring a "difficult time" during pre-season at Newcastle following a dispute over the club’s sponsorship deal with Wonga.
The striker had initially refused to wear a shirt bearing the pay-day money lender’s logo, citing personal and religious beliefs as his objection. Putting heavy strain on his relationship with the club, it was believed Newcastle had been considering selling the striker.
However, the former Freiburg forward was subsequently pictured in a casino, drawing ire from a section of the club’s support for what was perceived as hypocrisy given Islam's strict rules against gambling.
After finally agreeing to wear the shirt last week after what he described as "useful discussions", Cisse conceded that of late his time at the club has been hard.
"It has been a very difficult time for me and the club, and also for the fans," the striker told the club’s official website. “I have had some useful discussions with my club, my family and Islamic teachers in the last few weeks. After a huge amount of thought and reflection I have made the decision to follow my team-mates and wear the kit. Now I think it is important for the team and the fans that we concentrate 100% on football.”
Held back from the club’s pre-season tour of Portugal as a consequence of the disagreement, Cisse was left to work alone at the club’s Benton training base. And although 28-year-old admits the last few months on Tyneside have been difficult, he was also eager to emphasise he is now ready to retake the field.
"Although I did not go to Portugal on the training camp, I was back here working hard on my fitness and preparing for the start of the new season," he said. "Since then it has been great to be training with my team-mates again. I feel great and ready to go, and cannot wait to be out there [in a pre-season friendly] against St. Mirren on Tuesday and to play my part for the team."