Ayoze Perez reflects on a ‘hard’ spell out of Rafa Benitez’s Newcastle starting XI

Ayoze Perez
Ayoze Perez

Ayoze Perez’s hoping he seized his chance at Newcastle United – after a “hard” month out of the starting XI.

Perez was recalled for Saturday’s home game against Brentford. And the forward played his part in a 3-1 win for Rafa Benitez’s side at St James’s Park.

Perez – who replaced Mohamed Diame in Benitez’s team – energised United in the final third third of the pitch.

The 23-year-old, fielded behind striker Dwight Gayle, hadn’t started the club’s previous four games.

“It was quite hard for me after a few games when I was not getting too many minutes,” said Perez.

“I was determined to get back into the team, and I was happy when that happened. As soon as you get the chance when you are not playing, you have to take it. Hopefully, I have done that.”

Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey and Brentford's Alan McCormack

Newcastle's Jonjo Shelvey and Brentford's Alan McCormack

Diame, signed from Hull in the summer, had admitted in the build-up to the Brentford game that he needed to give his team more in the opposition half. United manager Benitez, however, said he made the change because of Diame’s exertions with Senegal during the international break.

For his part, Perez feels he is suited to the role given to him by Benitez, who is mulling over his options for tomorrow night’s game at Barnsley.

“I like playing in that position, and I think it is the best position for me,” said Perez.

“I like playing between a No 10 and a No 9 – that kind of position is the best for my game. That is where I feel most comfortable, and I was lucky enough to be in that position in this game. We won, and everything is good.

It was quite hard for me after a few games when I was not getting too many minutes. I was determined to get back into the team.

Ayoze Perez

“It was a good performance from the team, and another important three points.

“The most important thing is to keep on playing like we are and getting as many points as we can.

“Week by week, we are feeling more comfortable on the pitch. We’re getting to know each other better, and that’s the way to improve performances and get better.

“This was an important game for us to make sure we didn’t lose any momentum.”

Perez feels Newcastle will get better as the season progresses.

“I think we’ll continue to improve,” he said. “We’re getting better all the time, and the results prove that.

“We’re growing as a team, and the performances are getting better, although there are still things that we need to be improving.”

There was a crowd of 51,885 for the Brentford game, and Perez added: “The fans have proved they are still with us and supporting us. I am sure they want to be back in the Premier League as quickly as possible – we do too.”

Despite Newcastle sitting in second spot in the Championship, Benitez sees a number of areas for improvement over the coming weeks and months.

“He is always demanding things from us, even when we are winning and playing well, but that is a good thing for the team,” added Perez.

“If you want to improve as a player and a team, then you need a manager who is driving you on. That is way to get better, and I think it is why we are doing much better now.

“He always wants the best for me, and is always trying to tell me things to improve. I always want to improve so it is a good thing for me.”

Jonjo Shelvey was man of the match against Brentford after having a hand in all of United’s goals.

And Perez says the playmaker’s ability make it easier for the forwards to shine.

“It is great to be playing in front of him because you know if you make a good run, he will find you with the ball,” he said.

“I think we are getting used to playing with each other now, and that is definitely helping.

“We are still improving, though, and there’s still a long way to go.”