26th of September 2010. Were you there? I was. Stood in the back row of the Strawberry Corner, shaking my head and muttering obscenities to myself. I’d just witnessed my team capitulate, at home, in front of forty odd thousand fans and even the idea of a post match pint was strangely unappealing. The Stoke City side that put us to the sword that day had bullied us into submission and one man seemed to suffer more than anyone at the hands a Pulis and his merry band of shitehouses. He started the game at right back due to an injury to Danny Simpson and instantly looked like a fish out of water. His highlight reel from the game includes: Running the ball out of play without a player within 25 yards of him, miss-timing several tackles, shanking ball after ball into the Milburn and East stands and scoring the winner for Stoke with an immaculate diving header past Tim Krul. Some effort, I’m sure you agree.
Fast-forward just over two years and I receive a tweet with an attached photograph. It’s a picture of a person’s arm and proudly shows off their new tattoo, still red and angry but with the unmistakeable script that reads – I Love James Perch. I shit you not.
Perchinho, James Perchenbauer, The Mansfield Zanetti, The Little Benton Libero, The Perchinator, Perchy. Architect of one of the greatest professional football career resurrections in recent times. The change in Perchy’s fortunes, from reserve team bit part player heading the way of the footballing wasteland, to the striding, confident first team regular of recent months, is an astonishing story.
Ironically, the beginning of Perchinho’s resurgence took place against the team who had caused him such misery a year earlier, Stoke City. On a night when Demba Ba helped himself to a hat-trick, James Perch came off the bench, replacing Yohan Cabaye and stamped his mark on the game in less than 10 seconds. A tackle, which left a Stoke player cabbaged on the turf earned him a booking, and somewhere in a pub in South Shields, I muttered the words “Perchy man! For fucks sake!” That was it. The lightbulb went on, the penny dropped, and from then until this very day, James Perch has barely put a foot wrong for Newcastle United.
Perch has excelled himself and gained a new kind of confidence that seems to be a bi-product of Alan Pardew’s excellent man management skills. He has grown into arguably one of the squads’ most important players while his versatility, bravery and sheer graft have escalated him into “cult hero” status. He moves between right back, left back, centre half and centre midfield without a word of complaint, possesses a ferocious yet impeccably timed tackle, his passing is simple yet effective and he rarely gives the ball away. He’s even got his own song. “We’ve Got Perchinho”.
His performances against Villa at home, West Brom away, Spurs at home, Liverpool at home, and most recently, coming on in the North East derby have all been shining examples of how far the lad has come since that fateful day in 2010. He is yet to score a senior goal for Newcastle, but mark my words, when he does, there’s a chance it’ll be a 35 yard thunderfuck of a strike that goes in off the bar.
Love and Reach Arounds