JAMES Perch has made a timely recovery from injury ahead of Newcastle United’s visit to Goodison Park.
And the defender’s told manager Alan Pardew he’s ready to fill captain Fabricio Coloccini’s boots against Everton.
Perch suffered a neck injury in the second leg of the club’s Europa League win over Atromitos earlier this month.
But the 26-year-old is fit again and hoping to get the nod to play on Merseyside tonight as Newcastle look to record a second Premier League victory.
However, they will have to do it without Coloccini, the club’s inspirational captain.
Coloccini is almost certainly out with the hamstring problem he suffered on international duty with Argentina.
And Pardew – who is also without Danny Simpson and long-term injury victim Ryan Taylor – will have to make at least two changes to his defence.
”It was a neck injury I got during the Atromitos game – I think it was a bruised joint,” Perch told the Gazette. “It’s settled down now, so I’m OK.
“When you see the injuries we’ve got already, it looks bad. The main thing is to keep fit.
“Everyone’s going to be needed. We can’t afford for any other players to be out injured, or out in the physio room.
“We had a few days off over the weekend, and came back in and trained well. I’m ready for selection, if needed.
“Colo will be a big miss if he doesn’t play – he’s a big player – but we’ve got players who can fill in.”
Perch could be asked to replace Coloccini in the centre of defence, although given the threat of Marouane Fellaini, Pardew may opt for Mike Williamson’s extra height.
It could be that Perch starts at right-back instead, allowing Vurnon Anita to play centre midfield with Cheik Tiote still absent.
Everton have started the season well, and Perch knows United, well beaten 3-1 at Goodison Park on the final day of last season, will have to be at their best to take anything from the game.
Imposing midfielder Fellaini has again proved a handful, and Perch is understandably wary of David Moyes’s powerful and hard-working side.
“We know how important this game is,” said Perch. “Everton are a good team – we played them on the last day of the season.
“They’ve started well this year, but we know what we can do. We’ve got players who can score goals.”
“Fellaini’s a good player – you saw what he did against Manchester United. He absolutely ripped them to bits.
“They’ve got other players, it’s not just him. They’ve got (Steven) Pienaar on the left wing who’s quality. (Leighton) Baines at left back whose deliveries are unbelievable.
“We can’t be focused too much on one individual.
“We know they’re a good, hard-working team, and that’s what we’ll be focused on.”
Everton, though, will be wary of Hatem Ben Arfa, the one attacking player at United who has hit the ground running.
Ben Arfa announced his arrival in English football two years ago with a stunning goal at Goodison Park.
Perch was on the pitch that afternoon, with the strike earning Newcastle a 1-0 win. And if Perch and his defensive colleagues can keep the likes of Fellaini and Nikica Jelavic quiet, Ben Arfa could again prove decisive.
“I played when Hatem scored that great goal,” he said. “It was unbelievable.
“People didn’t know too much about him, but then he rocketed that shot in. It was unbelievable.
“He’s done it since. He can do it with his right foot, as you saw against Villa.
“He can run from the halfway line – he can do everything, to be honest.
“We know if we keep it tight at the back, then we’ve got the likes of Hatem, Demba (Ba), Papiss (Demba) and Cabs (Yohan Cabaye).
“They can tear defences apart and score two or three goals.