CHEIK Tiote’s got big boots to fill at Newcastle United – but James Perch is ably deputising for the midfielder.
That’s the verdict of manager Alan Pardew, who is without suspended Tiote for three Premier League games.
Tiote served the first match of his ban on Sunday, when Newcastle beat West Bromwich Albion 2-1 thanks to an injury-time goal from Papiss Demba Cisse.
Pardew opted to pair Yohan Cabaye with Perch rather than summer signing Vurnon Anita.
And the 27-year-old – dubbed “Perchinho” by fans – rewarded Pardew with a strong performance in central midfield.
Perch did his best to cut off the supply to imposing striker Romelu Lukaku, who cancelled out Demba Ba’s opener early in the second half.
Asked about his selection of Perch ahead of former Ajax midfielder Anita, Pardew told the Gazette: “You’ve got get the balance of the team right.
“I did think of Vurnon Anita, but I just went for Perchie because of the power of that striker.
“Perchie did a brilliant job in the first half stopping the supply to him.
“He also used the ball really well – he was a big player for us, I thought.”
Perch is likely to keep his place for Sunday’s visit to Anfield, and Pardew’s hopeful United can keep on taking points in the absence of Tiote, who will play against Club Brugge at the Jan Breydel Stadium in the Europa League next Thursday.
Pardew added: “Last year he did that – he came in when Cheik was away (at the African Cup of Nations).
“He did terrifically for us. We’ve won again without Cheik, and that’s important. We need him out there for us.”
Tiote will again leave for the African Cup of Nations in January after the Ivory Coast qualified at the expense of Senegal earlier this month.