NEWCASTLE United utility man James Perch has calmed fears about his neck injury and expects to be back in time for the club’s crucial trip to Everton.
But the Magpies utility man admits it has been a harsh introduction to the demands of a European campaign for the club’s walking wounded.
Perch missed Newcastle’s laboured draw with Aston Villa on Sunday along with midfielder Cheick Tioté and Ryan Taylor, who are both early-season casualties of United’s crowded fixture programme.
With Danny Simpson, Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and Shola Ameobi also sidelined it has not been an ideal start for Newcastle – who have played more games than any other Premier League team barring Liverpool. Now Perch (pictured below) – who has become a valuable member of the Newcastle squad – has called for Uefa and the Premier League to look at the scheduling after United’s bruising introduction to the Europa League.
He said: “It wasn’t an ideal start to the season because we travelled for five hours to Greece, played the game, got back to London, played the Chelsea match straight after which is very unfair.
“Whoever is in charge of things like that need to look at it again because it was not a level playing field.
“You need to look after yourselves in football, because playing midweek then at the weekend puts an enormous strain on the body and we have all got a few knocks.
“Personally I’ve got a bad neck and hopefully it will heal quickly. It is spasms of pain really, but I’m on medication so hopefully that will do the trick and I’ll be ready for Everton.”
This time last year Perch’s absence would not have been anywhere near as keenly felt but it is a measure of his improvement that Newcastle fans will be willing him back to fitness. He has already played in three positions this season and has carved himself a niche as United’s Mr Reliable in a variety of roles – including the centre-half slot that he occupied with the minimum of fuss towards the end of last season.
It also meant that he was rarely ever mentioned as a potential outgoing at St James’ Park, despite tentative interest from Norwich after Chris Hughton (pictured below) took over at Carrow Road. Hughton, of course, was the manager who brought him to Newcastle from Nottingham Forest on the recommendation of Colin Calderwood.
Typically, Perch did not let any of the speculation get to him as he continues to prove his worth to the United squad.
“I’ve always known if I worked hard at my game that I would have a future at Newcastle,” he said.
“I’ve always been confident of myself. That’s what I have done since I joined and the manager has stuck with me.
“I hope I have started to pay him back a little for his faith in me. I’ve got my own song! It’s always nice to hear that coming down from the stands, a great boost for me.
“To be honest, I don’t really listen to the transfer news. I know I am staying and I don’t really care about anything else. As long as I am here that is what matters to me.”
Earlier in the week, Davide Santon spoke of Newcastle’s belief that the top four is an achievable aim but Perch is more circumspect.
“In the dressing room we are just trying to black that out, because we know what we have got to do,” he said. “We are a good side, with some great players in there and we have got to back up last year by doing it again.
“That’s what all the top sides do and we want to be a top team.”
Meanwhile, Perch has reassured Newcastle fans that they are not taking the Europa League lightly – despite Pardew’s insistence that he will field youthful sides in the six group fixtures.
“The teams who get into the Europa League are there because they succeeded the year before, so we know what we are up against.
“We take that as a massive achievement and we are not going to take the Europa League lightly.”