OF all the players in the Premier League to be accused of diving, James Perch seems like the most unlikely of targets.
Perch stood accused of making the most of a clash with Pepe Reina at the weekend but the Mansfield-born midfielder, cum defender, cum left-back, cum right-winger is one of the most honest professionals in the game.
Hard in the tackle and unflinching in his approach to the physical side of the game, he has clambered back from the brink to earn himself a place in this Newcastle United side on the back of hard work and resolve.
So it is no surprise that his defence against charges of play-acting is as robust and no-nonsense as his performances have been of late.
“I wasn’t really surprised by some of the things that were said – it’s Liverpool fans and all that,” he said. ”They can say what they want, it’s water off a duck’s back.
“I’m not bothered, I don’t really read too much into it. I’m not a diver. People who have seen me play know what kind of player I am. I’m not going to go and dive about and act silly and the rest of it.
“If someone makes contact with you, someone makes contact with you. That’s it.
“He shouldn’t have done it really and I know deep down he’ll think ‘I shouldn’t have done that’ because it’s cost them at the end of the day. It’s his actions that have caused it.
“There’s no need for all the talk really, you just need to look at the telly to see he’s in the wrong.
“He was probably frustrated at the way it was going – I’m not going to blame him for doing it because he’s frustrated and he wanted them to do well. Things happen; I bet he regrets it now.” A line drawn under that incident, Perch is now looking forward to linking up with friend Mike Williamson in the centre of defence against Swansea tomorrow.
Williamson was cooking Perch dinner last night. This is clearly a partnership that is strong on and off the pitch. It will need to be against a Swansea side that have surprised the Premier League with their superb passing football and Barcelona-lite philosophy.
“I’ve had experience playing against them for (Nottingham) Forest. We never used to like playing against them because of how they keep the ball,” Perch said.
“That was Forest, this is Newcastle who are a much better team. It will be a different task to recent weeks. West Brom are similar but not as effective passing the ball.
“You know what you’re going to get. They don’t change to play against anyone – be that Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City or Wigan.
“They stick to their formation and pass the ball at every opportunity. We know what to expect, definitely. We know we’ll get worked out of possession – credit to them.”
Perch is as grounded a player as you could wish to meet. In love with his new North East surroundings, he has moved his girlfriend Olivia up to the region and says he has no thoughts of departing.
Half-Bajan on account of his father, who was born in Barbados, he is as self-deprecating as you can get.
So when it is mentioned to him that his Twitter nickname ‘Perchinio’ has been picked up by boss Alan Pardew, he has a sly chuckle.
“I can’t get away from that nickname now!” he laughs. “It’s flattering really.
“Who would have thought it a year and a half ago with all the bad times I had at the start of last season?
“I probably wouldn’t have thought something like that would have happened. But I’m enjoying it and when you’re beating Liverpool 2-0 and your name is ringing around St James’ Park it’s a good feeling. The manager loves it! The players haven’t given me much stick for it . . . Yet!”
Having survived his own brush with the St James’ Park crowd – Perch was booed by his own fans 18 months ago – he also has words of comfort for Andy Carroll (pictured left), who endured a miserable return to his boyhood club.
“He was a handful, to be honest, I knew he was going to be,” Perch said. “I think he’d admit things didn’t quite go his way but I think that’s just how things have gone for him at Liverpool.
“I didn’t see him after the game but I think he stayed down in Newcastle, he must have seen family and friends or something. He’s a friend of mine so I always want him to do well. I want him to score goals for Liverpool and do well.
“I don’t like it when people say bad things about him – he’s not a bad guy, he’s a good guy and he deserves to do well. I admit it’s not going his way but hopefully he can turn it around again. He is thick skinned, not the kind of guy who will go into his shell and he’ll be back and battling next week.”