So far in this series we’ve looked at Danny Guthrie, Haris Vuckic, Shola Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and Tamas Kadar.
It’s been a while since I wrote one of these articles, so today we discuss and vote on ex-Nottingham Forest star and current NUFC utility man James Perch. He was signed by Chris Hughton, probably tipped off by our Assistant Manager at the time Colin Calderwood, who used to manage Forest.
I expect opinion to be divided on this lad due to a rocky beginning to his Newcastle career, particularly whilst paying at right back where needless fouls and poor timing led to a ban for getting booked in the first consecutive Premier League games of the 2010-2011 season – a Premier League record by the way!
This, on top of unconvincing performances, meant that many fans were calling for him to be dropped to the Reserves and sold on at the first opportunity. His team-mates even christened him ‘Chopper’ for goodness sake! Upon his return from suspension he gifted Stoke a win at St James’ Park courtesy of an own goal and then he handed West Brom a goal in a 2-2 draw. That error ensured he was dropped and we saw little of him again until this season.
This season he has made 11 appearances, including five starts. Our defence prior to the Steven Taylor injury was heralded as amongst the most stubborn in the Country and since Mike Williamson came back it seems to be resuming that status. However, for a three game period, ‘Chopper’ had to cover in the middle. He also has two starts to his name in the League Cup. Is it a coincidence that the Magpies shipped in 14 goals in the five games Perch stared?
At 5’11” and 11st, 3lbs he is not exactly tiny although it is pretty clear that most top central defenders are usually over 6′ tall and a bit heavier.
Some said he actually played well whilst he covered for those few games. I would disagree. Fabricio Coloccini was all over the place trying to cover for Perch as he repeatedly failed to read plays in front of him, head the ball or communicate effectively with his team-mates.
Now it can be argued that he was out of position for some of those games so he can be forgiven. Fair enough, the lad did a job for us when called upon and did not complain. However, it did show us that Perch is not made for that position and should probably not be considered an option there again.
Chopper was always billed as a defender that can play in midfield if required. At Championship level, he may well be convincing at right back or centre half, but to be honest I’d rather we looked at other options should Danny Simpson get injured. He has demonstrated to us time and again that he does not have the timing, discipline, confidence or intelligence to be a success in defence in the Premier League.
For a neutral article, I am all too aware this is sounding a little negative. It is an honest assessment of his time with us so far though and if there were more positives about his defensive displays with us, I’d happily list them. Pro’s about his game would be that he has a bit of pace, he’s a hard worker and good professional, his passing is not bad and he can make a decent recovery tackle. Negatives would be that he fails to read the game convincingly at this level, meaning he makes rash tackles. He can be guilty of ball watching, he is not great in the air and his first touch is dodgy at times.
Moving onto this seasons positives and I will invite you to consider how Alan Pardew has used the lad from the bench this season. He has been taken off the bench and put into a withdrawn defensive midfielder position for the last 10 minutes of no less than five games so far this season. From this position, Perch has done a good job in fairness. He has demonstrated that whilst in the thick of it, he will put his body on the line and rough the opposition up. His passing is usually pretty tidy from there and he gives the defence behind him time to manoeuvre.
Finally, I believe we have found a position that he can be consistently effective from. The trouble is, how often is he actually going to be required for this role and does it justify his place in the squad and drain on our resources? Cheick Tiote is our leading defensive midfielder, whilst Yohan Cabaye will do a more than adequate job there. Danny Guthrie has already shown that he is a capable deputy for the times that Tiote is injured or suspended, but questions about whether he will get a new contract by the summer remain.
Dan Gosling is a fairly new signing who will play through the middle, whilst we know that Pardew rates young Mehdi Abeid highly in the same position. We seem pretty well covered for the immediate and long term with regards to central/defensive midfield, so is there really space for James Perch to justify his place in our squad? Is there some other position we could utilise him in or is it simply time to consider moving him on this summer? At 26-years-old he is not likely to change his game radically, so what we see now is more or less what we should expect in the future.
What do you readers think about the lad? Let us know how you view his ability and contribution to Newcastle United’s cause and have a vote on whether you believe he is worth hanging on to until his contract expires in 2014.