James Perch is probably Newcastle’s most berated player (though Shola Ameobi may give him a run for his money) and for good reason – when called upon he just hasn’t been able to make the step up. Fan feeling towards Perch has been at an all time low this season, until he put in a barnstorming performance against Brighton in the FA Cup.
The Magpies may have been sent packing with a 1-0 defeat, but Perch can still hold his head high. Whilst the Newcastle faithful were no doubt worried by his presence in the starting line-up (thanks to the absence of Fabriccio Coloccini) it wasn’t Perch that led the side down, but the wasteful nature of Newcastle’s strikers. In fact, it’s a little disappointing that Perch’s best performance in quite some time has been overshadowed by a dismal defeat at the hands of Brighton.
Given the flak that he’s received from fans since he joined Newcastle back in summer 2010, it’s only fair that he gets credit for what he’s done right.
Whilst Perch looks more comfortable as a defensive midfielder and not a centre-back, by slotting inside the back-four on Saturday and performing well he has proven that there is versatility to his game. Now he just needs to add consistency.
Perch’s main weakness would have to be his lack of ability in the air. Despite being 5 ft 11 in tall his inability to deal with long-balls and set-pieces have cost Newcastle in the past. But he does look pretty hand on the ground, with a decent turn of pace and a good reading of the game. To get the most out of Perch, it helps if he’s played alongside a big player who can deal with the opposition’s aerial threat and leave him to mop up everything else.
Whilst he hasn’t quite earned a place in Newcastle’s starting line-up, it does bode well for his future with the Magpies. Indeed, it’s unlikely that he’ll ever earn a starting berth, but if he is willing to play second-fiddle and fill in where necessary, he could be a real asset for Newcastle, particularly if he can find a consistent level of performance.
This goes to show that the level of criticism placed upon Perch in the past has been unjust and that he does have something to offer the club if the circumstances are right.
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