Miles Starforth: Why Ayoze Perez knew better than to listen to his online critics at Newcastle United
Ayoze Perez turned off his Twitter notifications a while ago, and if you look through the replies to his tweets earlier this season it’s not hard to see why.
Perez, last season’s top scorer, wasn’t playing well, and nor was his team.
Of course, there were plenty of positive messages from Newcastle United fans at the time, but many were negative.
“Sometimes, it’s good not to hear some things,” said the forward.
“The mentality is to avoid anything that can disturb you or make you think things you shouldn’t think.”
Given that confidence is so important to any athlete, it was probably best Perez didn’t see the negative ones.
Perez knew he wasn’t playing well – and he knew he had to improve.
That was then. This is now. And if Perez turned his notifications back on today, it would be a different story. All the replies to tweets following his match-winning performance against Everton last weekend are positive.
“Brilliant”, “fantastic” and “outstanding” were some of the words used to described Perez’s second-half performance against Everton, who had led 2-0 at the break.
The 25-year-old scored two goals and set up another for Salomon Rondon, his strike partner.
That’s football. There are highs and lows, peaks and troughs.
Perez’s form has improved with the team’s form. The two are inextricably linked.
United, helped by the arrival of Miguel Almiron are playing higher up the pitch and with more confidence. Perez – who has long been one of the best finishers at the club – is getting better chances and is taking more of them.
The former Spain Under-21 international, signed as an unknown in 2014, now has 27 Premier League goals to his name.
Only 12 players have scored more times in the division for Newcastle than Perez, who took to sticking his fingers in his ears in celebrations of his goals after being booed on to the pitch against Watford in early November.
“I will do it until the end of the season now,” said Perez.
The thing is, there’s always one. There’s always one player in any team who gets more grief than his team-mates – and it happened long before Twitter.
Criticism, and abuse, has always been part of football, but critics used to have to be within shouting distance of a player to get their message across. Social media changed all that.
It wasn’t too long ago that Dummett was getting stick online and on the pitch.
Dummett, like Perez, persevered with the backing of manager Rafa Benitez, and his name, finally, was sung by United fans last season.
“It was weird,” the defender said at the time. “Normally people shout ‘Dummett, you’re s****’.”
Worse has been said to Perez, who could yet become one of the club’s all-time leading Premier League goalscorers.