A year ago, Ayoze Perez was an unknown quantity.
Not any more.
When I came, I didn’t know how the Premier League was. Now I know the Premier League and the football here. I can be a little more clever sometimes with the ball and show different skills. I can keep the ball or I can play.Ayoze Perez
Perez – and his energy, enthusiasm and eye for goal – is a known quantity in the Premier League.
The Spain Under-21 international, signed as one for the future from Tenerife a year ago, scored seven Premier League goals last term.
And the Newcastle United forward knows replicating – or bettering – last season’s form will prove a challenge.
But it’s a challenge Perez – who celebrated his 22nd birthday with a goal against York City at Bootham Crescent on Wednesday night – is looking forward to tackling over the coming weeks and months.
“I want to keep improving and enjoying this team and this league,” said Perez, who memorably opened his Newcastle account with a header against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane last October.
“I will train very, very hard to improve and keep the good things. I will keep improving.”
Perez quickly adapted to the pace and power of Premier League football after his arrival.
Now the division’s defence’s have adapted to him, life will be a little more difficult for Perez, who knows he will have to out-think – as well as out-run – his opponents.
“When I came, I didn’t know how the Premier League was,” he said.
“Now I know the Premier League and the football here.
“I can be a little more clever sometimes with the ball and show different skills. I can keep the ball or I can play.”
Newcastle trailed York by two goals at the break on a sodden night at Bootham Crescent after a sloppy first-half spell, and it was Perez, more than anyone else, who drove the team on after the interval.
He ran and ran, and he finished at the far post after defender Jamaal Lascelles flicked a corner to him.
Perez, typically, just needed one chance.
“When I’m on the pitch, I always want to win,” he said. “I try to do my best of course.
“(York) wasn’t as good as we wanted, but we have to think about the next game.”
While Perez – who will again be involved against Borussia Monchengladbach at St James’s Park tomorrow – was happy to have marked his birthday with a goal, he was less happy about the result.
“I scored, which was good, but we didn’t win,” he said. “We wanted to win, so we have to train harder to improve.
“We have to think about the next game against Monchengladbach.”
Perez was moved up front after debutant Aleksandar Mitrovic’s withdrawal at York.
He often found himself leading the line last season given a lack of strikers at the club last season – and Papiss Demba Cisse’s long absences through injury and suspension – but knows there will be greater competition this season.
McClaren, however, will have liked what he saw at Bootham Crescent as he formulates his team for United’s season-opener against Southampton on August 9.
“I think it’s good for the team,” said Perez. “We have many players for the same positions.
“We all do our best, then he will make a decision.”