Perch endured a tough time on Tyneside when he arrived at the start of the 2010/11 season, but his versatility and work-rate under Alan Pardew saw him become a cult hero by supporters, who christened him ‘Perchinio.’
Now, he’s revealed who he believes is the best player he has played with during a chat with the Chronicle about all things NUFC – saying Ben Arfa could’ve been an ‘elite’ player with the right attitude:
“Ben Arfa by a mile!”
“I think everyone knows the talent he’s got, if he just had the mental ability of a top player, like Sergio Aguero, I think he would have been held at that elite level.
“He was magic; in training you were hoping you were on his side so he didn’t embarrass you, but he was fantastic.
“He didn’t always do it in training because of that laziness about him but on a Saturday; but, if he was on it, he could win you the game.”
With all due respect to Perch – who plys his trade at Scunthorpe United these days – that 2011/12 Newcastle side is the best set of players he played with by a country mile, so it is inevitable that he would choose a team-mate from that era.
That said, there was plenty quality to choose from in that squad, with Ba, Cisse, Cabaye, Colocini, Krul and Tiote all in their prime at the time.
Ben Arfa was the most technically gifted player in that team, so it is hard to disagree with his choice overall. We are talking about a player who was once linked with heavyweights such as Real Madrid and Arsenal, so it is probably a testament to his attitude – which Perch highlights – that his career didn’t hit the heights that it perhaps should have done.
He was still a quality for us, but there is only a certain amount of managers and clubs that a player can fall out with before it becomes obvious that they are in fact the problem.
In Allan Saint-Maximin, I believe we have another tricky, exciting French winger – but with his head firmly screwed on his shoulders!