FIT-again James Perch is desperate to pitch in and help Newcastle United climb the Premier League table.
Perch has been a frustrated spectator for the past few weeks after suffering a groin injury
But the utility player will make a timely return for Alan Pardew’s injury-hit side in tonight’s game against Stoke City at the Britannia Stadium.
Pardew also welcomes back captain Fabricio Coloccini from suspension, but he will be without defender Steven Taylor, who faces up to eight weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring problem.
Newcastle have lost three successive Premier League games in the absence of Coloccini and Perch, most recently going down 2-0 at Southampton on Sunday.
And 14th-placed United are closer to the relegation zone than the European places.
“When I did it (the injury) against Liverpool, I knew it was going be at least two or three weeks,” Perch told the Gazette.
“There’s nothing worse than getting injured and not being able to get out on the field.
“I got back as quick as quick as I can, and hopefully I can stay fit.
“I don’t think there’s anything worse – Tayls will tell you the same.
“It’s horrible. When you’re coming to games watching, it’s not so bad when you’re winning.
“But when the team’s going through a tough patch, you just want to get out there and help the boys. That’s what we’re all about at this club.”
Newcastle’s squad, stretched by the Europa League, has already been decimated by injuries this season, and the gruelling Christmas and New Year period is yet to come. And Perch has called on the players who are fit to now show their worth.
“It’s tough (playing Stoke) when you’ve got a full squad to pick from, but when you’ve got injuries like we have, it’s even tougher,” he added.
“It’s a test of character. We’re all big men. We can handle it, and I’m sure we’ll go there and give our best.”
Perch is adamant that the same players that took Newcastle to a fifth-placed finish last season will be able to pull the club away from the bottom three.
“There’s never been a lack of fight or effort,” he said. “It’s maybe just a bit of confidence.
“I think the fight has always been there, and we’ll have to fight against Stoke. We know what they’re good at, and what they can do.
“The players and staff are all in it together. We were all in it together when we were winning. We’ve had a few bad results, but nothing’s changed.
“The desire is always going to be there. If we’d won the game (against Southampton) on Sunday, we’d have been up to ninth, and all of a sudden it doesn’t look too bad.
“But we lost, and people are looking at it as a negative. We’re still looking to win this game and jump a few places.
“We’ve got Wigan on Monday. That’s the good thing about football. There’s always the next game to put things right.”
United can at least draw heart from last season’s Demba Ba-inspired 3-1 win at Stoke, who are 12th in the league.
Ba scored a hat-trick against the club which pulled out of a deal to sign him almost two years ago, and the striker will again lead the line in the Potteries.
“Not many teams go there and play like we did and get a result like we did,” said Perch. “That’ll be the back of their minds. We’ll take some confidence from it.
“We know what we can do. We know from last year that what we did was unbelievable. We had the test of the Europa League, which was been unbelievable.
“It’s the same squad, the same players and the same staff. It’s the same club.
“Things haven’t gone quite right the last few weeks, but we’re hoping to put that right.
“The gaffer has to make changes on Europa League nights. Stoke did it last year, and struggled a little bit.
“It’s tough to be in both competitions – it was always going to be tough – but we’ll keep battling.”