JAMES Perch admits he feared his Newcastle United career was coming to an end a year ago.
Now the utility player is looking forward to playing in the knockout stages of the Europa League.
Perch – who sat out Monday night’s 3-0 win over Wigan Athletic through suspension – is expected to face Bordeaux at the Stade Chaban-Delmas tonight in the club’s last group stage game.
The 27-year-old admits his career at St James’s Park looked to be at a crossroads 12 months ago, as the January transfer window approached, because of a lack of first-team football.
However, United manager Alan Pardew told him he wasn’t going anywhere.
And Perch hasn’t looked back since, with the Mansfield-born player having gone on to establish himself as an integral member of Pardew’s squad.
“It’s good to finally get there and play European football, and finally be in a place and know I’m a part of it,” Perch said.
“Twelve or 18 months ago, I was maybe looking to go elsewhere, as my future wasn’t certain here.
“Things have turned round, and I’m here to stay.”
Perch – who had a spell on the sidelines last month with a groin problem – has impressed in midfield and defence when called upon this season.
However, his main concern is the team’s form, and injuries and suspension – and the club’s involvement in Europe – has taken a toll on Newcastle’s Premier League campaign.
United are 14th in the table, and five points above the relegation zone.
“On a personal note, I’m quite happy with how things have gone,” added Perch.
“But I don’t like looking into it and saying ‘I’ve done well’, or whatever. When the team’s doing well, it’s nice to look back and say you’ve played well.
“But when the team’s done bad, it’s hard to say that when the team’s lost.”