UTILITY man James Perch is happy to stay at Newcastle United – for now.
Perch switched agents in the summer in a bid to secure more first-team football but when Alan Pardew indicated that he still had a part to play in his United revolution, the former Nottingham Forest man opted to remain at St James’ Park.
He has started just five games so far this season and his versatility – which has seen him play as a central midfielder, full-back and centre-back so far this term – is as much of a hindrance as a help in his bid to nail down a regular first-team role.
As a fringe man Perch might be regarded as vulnerable to bids ahead of Tuesday’s 11pm transfer deadline but the 26-year-old would like to stay at Newcastle.
It is a situation he may review in the future.
“I wouldn’t be happy with that role (as a bit part player) for ten years. But I am happier than where I was.
“To come in and play like that is a step forward, it’s progression. I am happy with that for now.
“It’s awful when you are sat in the shadows. You are constantly thinking, ‘am I going to play?’ Am I going to go in the next window?’
“As long as you know, the manager knows and the players know what your value is to the team, it doesn’t really matter what is going on outside.
“I know the manager has wanted me to be part of his squad.
“I have never once been told that I am not needed. I know I am needed. Every time I am asked to play I have to do my best, even if it was the last 15 minutes of games, for now.” Pardew’s approach to his fringe men has certainly benefited Perch.
While other managers take an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ approach to those not participating the United boss and his coaching team have been at pains to involve those on the edges of the team.
So while Perch had been written off by many black-and-white observers after a tough start to his Newcastle career, Pardew has been able to rely on him after he was called in from the cold.
“It’s been a lot better than it was last year,” the defender said.
“I have been more a part of things. Coming on in games, playing in a successful team, I can’t complain really.
“It does feel a bit of a lifeline (I’ve had). I don’t think the manager ever forgot about me, I was never in the wilderness.
“It was just I was never getting time on the pitch.
“I am enjoying it. It’s about waiting for things to happen.
“I stepped into centre-half and played a few games, but Willo came in because he is a more natural centre-back. I have found myself in centre-midfield, I don’t mind that.” It is easy to see why Pardew values the unselfish Perch, who offers a self-deprecating response when asked what supporters can expect of him if he is given a long-term role in the midfield engine room.
“Plenty of bookings,” he chuckles. “I am not a creative midfielder, a Paul Scholes who can kick, pass or split defences. I am more of a ball player who breaks up play and gives it to the players who can – like Jonás and Hatem. Give it to them and I do the easy stuff.
“Being Mr Versatile does help in a way, it really does help sometimes. Sometimes it can’t help mind, because it can reflect badly if you don’t play well in central midfield having played well at right-back for a few games. You can be inconsistent.
“But I have been like that all of my career, so I’m not going to complain.”
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