Much of the focus of this season has been on our “big hitters” such as Demba Ba, Yohan Cabaye, Cheik Tiote, Tim Krul, Fabricio Coloccini and, more recently, Papiss Demba Cisse.
However I’d like to spare a thought for some of the unsung heroes of the season. The ones who haven’t had the headlines and aren’t the subject of media fawning. I’ll start off with James Perch.
For me he is easily the most improved player of the season. You could argue that it wasn’t exactly hard for him to improve on last season, but I’d counter that by daring to suggest that he was never as bad as some made out. Granted he made a shaky start to his Newcastle career and picked up a string of bookings before scoring an own goal against Stoke and from then on became the poster boy for the boo boys, and once you have that “honour” it’s hard to shake it.
However fast forward to now and we see almost the perfect utility player. No problems off the pitch and good performances on it, Perch has shown that he can deliver in a number of roles. In fact last night at Chelsea I would even go as far as saying that our defence looked more assured with James Perch sticking to his defensive task rather than going walkabout like Danny Simpson.
I honestly can’t believe I’m going to say these, but Perch has proved his worth to me. I don’t think we’ll be able to find a player as versatile for him for as little as what he costs. Sure there are better players out there, but not at the wage Perch takes home.
Something has changed with Perch. I don’t whether it’s confidence or something else, but right now we are getting the best out of him and it’s fantastic to see. Getting the best out of the squad players is one of the reasons why we’ve done so well this season, and Perch has been one contributing factor to that.