James Perch leads praise for captain Fabricio Coloccini

THE heartfelt tributes to Fabricio Coloccini’s outstanding individual performance in Sunday’s derby match continued from both inside and outside the Newcastle United camp.

THE heartfelt tributes to Fabricio Coloccini’s outstanding individual performance in Sunday’s derby match continued from both inside and outside the Newcastle United camp.

“A role model,” was how James Perch described his captain and it’s difficult to argue with such strong sentiment.

“A couple of hair straighteners away from being Darren Peacock,” was another testimonial on Twitter.

That came from someone whose tongue was firmly in his cheek.

With all due respect to Mr Peacock, Newcastle current centre-half is in a different class altogether – in both playing football and hairstyle.

Fans on various other social sites were unanimous in their respect for the on-field leader.

How much Coloccini’s 76 minutes on the pitch at the Stadium of light took out of the Argentina international remains to be seen.

He isn’t fully fit, his calf stiffened in the second-half and cramp eventually got the better of him.

Yet he was still man of the match.

It may be he is forced to rest up for another week or so after putting his creaking body through so much torture.

In a recent interview, the Newcastle United captain revealed how every Friday after school he would take an eight-hour bus journey from his home in Cordoba to the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires.

The young Coloccini would make the return journey on Sunday night.

That’s a 1,000-mile roundtrip, just for football training.

Newcastle’s squad is as international as any in the Premier League with players coming from very different countries and cultures.

However, it is fair to assume none of them ever spent 16 hours sitting on a bus just so they could improve their first touch.

Perch said: “To be fair, Colo is one of the hardest workers in training and is always out there on the training pitch early.

“The guy is a great role model for us all because he does the right things all the time. He’s a great model especially for the kids at Newcastle.”

When you have worked so hard just to get on the first rung in football, then why would the Argentine opt to slack off now he’s made it.

The 30-year-old is the consummate professional and Sunday was the epitome of what he is all about.

Perch added: “Colo could hardly walk when he was subbed. He had a problem with his calf and was struggling a bit, but that is the courage of the man. He’s a great leader and, for me, it’s his composure which makes him a top-class player.”

Alan Pardew said pre-derby the biggest boost for him was the return of his captain and the team had been crying out for the big guy to step out of defence, put his foot on the ball and play a pass.

Coloccini did plenty of that in the Stadium of Light.

For example, in the second-half his way of dealing with a loose ball inside his own penalty area was to play a short, quick and accurate pass to Yohan Cabaye and then go looking for a return, which he received and he played another simple pass out.

To do it in any Premier League game is impressive. To show that composure in a derby match when the pace never ducked below mayhem is remarkable.

Perch was full of praise for Newcastle’s No2, who has now played more than 150 games for the club, particularly for the way he gave Sunderland’s only league goalscorer up until Sunday, Steven Fletcher, not an inch of space to cause Newcastle any real problems.

Perch said: “The back five were all superb in fairness. They have Fletcher who has been on fire.

“I would imagine he would say that was the toughest game he had to play in so far this season because they didn’t give him a minute.

“They were tight on him all the time and won almost every header. Collo and Willow (Mike Williamson) were superb.

“Collo was unbelievable. He’s been out for a few weeks with a hamstring injury, that was his first game back in a while, and he was absolutely superb.

“That shows the character of the man, but he is like that every week.”

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