Ayoze Perez feels he’s finally ready to make his mark in the Championship.
The Newcastle United forward has taken time to adapt to the uncompromising division.
Perez, likely to start tonight’s FA Cup replay against Birmingham City at St James’s Park, believes he can make a bigger contribution in the second half of the campaign.
The 23-year-old has scored six goals – three of them coming in the league – so far this season. Perez – who set up Daryl Murphy’s winner against Brentford on Saturday with a superb cross – wants more goals and assists over the coming months.
Asked about his adaption to the Championship, Perez said: “It’s quite different. It’s tougher, harder, for sure.
“But I’ve been adapting to the league game by game.
“The team has been doing well. It helps a lot. Physically, it’s stronger and harder, but I’ve been adapting to the league and I’m feeling better.”
Perez has found time and space hard to come by in English football’s frenetic, and at times brutal, second tier.
“You have to find your space, your position, and even when you find it you’ve got players above you,” said the Spain Under-21 international.
“But as a player you have to deal with it and I always try to do my best. I’m feeling better game by game.”
United manager Rafa Benitez has used Perez and Mohamed Diame in the No 10 role this season. The Tenerife-born player has also played up front for Newcastle.
With Diame at the Africa Cup of Nations – and Dwight Gayle and Aleksandar Mitrovic injured – he could be in line for a run in Benitez’s starting XI.
Perez said: “That might help me if I maybe play more games in a row and get more confident.
“If the team is winning, even better. I’m working on improving and getting better.”
Perez played as a lone striker in his first season at United. And he would be happy to reprise his former striking role in the absence of Gayle and Mitrovic.
“If he (Benitez) thinks I’m the best option for playing No 9, I will be ready for it,” said Perez.
“I’ve done it before.” On the club’s injured players, he added:
“Hopefully, they will be back as soon as possible.”
Perez delivered the cross for Murphy’s winner against Brentford with the outside of his right foot after breaking down the left flank at Griffin Park.
The club’s 2-1 win – and Brighton and Hove Albion’s defeat to Preston North End – saw Newcastle return to the top of the Championship.
Perez and his team-mates were aware that Brighton were trailing at Deepdale when Brentford equaliser early in the second half.
“To be honest, I was thinking in the second half when they got the goal that I had to do something to win this game,” said Perez.
“We needed it. We knew Brighton was getting beaten, so we knew it was a great chance to be top of the league.
“Then I didn’t think too much when I got the ball from Jack. I saw Daryl making that run and I just delivered the ball. It was a good goal.”