Toon Fans Can Tough Says Former Defender

Last updated : 07 August 2019 By Footy Mad - Editor

James Perch knows just how hard it can be to get the Newcastle United faithful on your side. But, having said that, did he DESERVE any other?

I never took to the player, and if he was pointing the finger of blame, I would probably be top of the list.

The fact is - Geordies are honest - and if the player isn't good enough - they let him know.

Arriving from Nottingham Forest for £1million in July 2010, Perch struggled to endear himself to supporters, but for good reason. He simply wasn't very good!

He notched up five yellow cards in his first five games - a Premier League record - and scored an own goal as Stoke City beat United 2-1 in only his sixth game.

"I didn't start well," Perch admits with a smile.

"But, once they saw me shift from right-back, to left-back to centre-half, to midfielder - putting in a shift, putting in 110 per cent every time - they really appreciated it, and that's how I turned them around in the end.

"That is what I say to anyone who asks about Newcastle fans - they just want effort, and I probably realise that more than most."

Having become a crucial part of the Nottingham Forest side battling for promotion, Perch had quietly gone about making a name for himself in the Championship as a versatile player.

United had watched him and liked what they saw. He was a solid and dependable professional who, at the age of 25, had clocked up more than 400 league appearances.

Then-manager Chris Hughton had wanted him to join Newcastle six months earlier, but Forest boss Billy Davies was not prepared to allow him to leave - leaving Perch fearful that his dream of playing in the Premier League might have gone.

"When I first heard about United's interest, I went and told Billy Davies and I told him that I want to join Newcastle," Perch told ChronicleLive.

"He didn't let me go for whatever reason - I think he thought I was going to play a big part in getting promoted that season - so I thought I might have missed my chance.

"But having known Colin Calderwood, who was assistant to Chris Hughton, he told me not to worry and 'we'll try to do it again in the summer'.

"I just got my head down at Forest, and luckily it played out that I signed."

United finished seven points above the drop zone in 12th, but just months later Hughton had been shown the door.

"Chris is just what you see - very straight forward, honest. Very pleasant. He's just an all-round nice guy, who was very organised at Newcastle," Perch added.

"He just got on with it, that's why I think he got all that affection from the fans; they knew how tough the chairman was with the spending, everyone knew Chris was against it, but he never came out and blamed anybody, or pointed to the board.

"He just got on with his job and did the best that he could - that's what the Newcastle fans expect and that's what they got."

There had been rumblings that Hughton was due to be sacked by United even though he had led them to fifth in the table after 11 games.

A run of five games without a win saw them slide down to 11th, and Hughton was dismissed following a 3-1 defeat to West Brom, something which Perch admits he was shocked by.

"It was [a shock] because we weren't even doing that bad, it just looked like the writing was on the wall from the start with Mike Ashley or whoever not being happy Chris was there, and it was inevitable he was going to go, unfortunately he lost his job, but it's great to see him doing so well at Brighton now."

The club, in a statement, claimed it was now time for an 'individual with more managerial experience is needed to take the club forward' - and former West Ham manager Alan Pardew arrived.

Pardew led the club to a 12th-place finish, and then into the Europa League with a fifth-placed finish the season after.

"There were differences between them [Hughton and Pardew] but there were similarities - both were very organised.

"Alan Pardew coming in freshened it up - obviously when a new manager comes in, no matter the circumstances, they do things differently, they put their stamp on things and the Newcastle squad seem to take to it.

"It gave us the fifth-place finish, which was unbelievable."

United just seemed to gel, and with counter-attacking football which excited the fans. A team made up of Yohan Cabaye, Jonas Gutierrez, Demba Ba and Hatem Ben Arfa seemed to play with no fear.