“He will be playing for St Mirren by January” was this contributors initial reaction to Newcastle United unveiling their first signing in the summer of 2014.  Undoubtedly – our 1.5 million pound signing has proved me and any many others emphatically wrong – especially when you look at the overall picture.

The exotic location of St Mirren was not a purposeful exaggeration – if we cast out minds back to the Pardew years; St Mirren, Dundee, St Johnstone and second division Rangers were quite often as Mr Pardews dumping ground for members of his “Development Squad”. Unlike messers Adam Campbell, Curtis Good, Remie Streete and Haris Vuckic – Ayoze Perez was saved from that fait and was brought straight into the first team squad.

Making his debut for us in our annual Pardew home loss to Manchester City where he came on in the 83rd minute in place of another home debutant….Emanuel Riviere – Ayo’s impact was minimal as you would expect for a 1.5 million pound signing from the Spanish Second Division against the might of the reigning Champions. The first of his 33 Premier League goals helped us to come away with all 3 points at Spurs away – a lovely instinctive headed finish assisted by Remy Cabella.

On his maiden season Perez ended up with a very respectful 7 goals out of just over 26 games (1 in 3 record). Looking back at the results in the games that Ayoze scored in – he contributed to United gaining 12 points that season with his goals, including 3 winners and 1 equaliser. We stayed up by 4 points that year after the best coach in the Premier League tried his best to relegate us –Ayo’s fee already paid back in that very first season?

Context simply has to be given when it comes to reviewing Perez’ NUFC career to date – he has played as our main striker, number 10, left wing, and on the right right wing. Although it pains me to even write their names, further context must also be given to Ayoze when you look at his Managers. Alan Pardew, John Carver and Steve McClaren were all tasked with looking after Perez’s development before Ayo became an ever present in the starting 11 of Rafa’s efficient Mags. Rafa has turned Perez into a now consistent attacker who is now courting the interest of some of Europe’s more ambitious sides.

Ayoze Perez splits fan opinion – his critics often brand him “lazy”, “weak” and “slow”.  Those were the words I heard another fan utter in our recent 3-1 win against Southampton…. the game he scored his hat-trick in, However, this opinion is something that me, and more importantly Rafael Benitez simply do not agree with. He has been a key and consistent performer for us over recent years. He was instrumental in the Championship season, a top 10 finish last year and our survival this year too. As an avid listener to this Fanzines podcast the general consensus of Perez being our best finisher is completely accurate. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a better instinctive finisher outside of the top 6 in the Premier League. Simply YouTube his goals for NUFC and you will see my point. Admittedly, when he is given time to think he can miss when he should maybe score – but if he did take every chance then he certainly would not be at Newcastle United (TBC.)

Ayoze Perez is the 1.5 million bargain that escaped Judge Pardews sentence of 12 months playing in the lower reaches of the SPL and Scottish Championship who has far exceeded expectations from when he first arrived from Tenerife.

He has amassed a total of 42 Goals, and 15 Assists in 182 games for a team that is sadly often in a relegation battle. His goals have contributed to a total of 79 points since his arrival in both the Championship and the Premier League.

A player who cost 1.5million from the Spanish Second Division has contributed to a goal in just over every 3 games after playing 4 different positions – this is a phenomenal return considering Ayoze was signed for Alan’s “development squad”.

My question to the reader is, can you think of any other player who has consistently scored more important goals than Ayoze since his arrival? Season defining goals against Brighton (A) in the Championship, Stoke (A) 2017/18, Huddersfield (H) 2017/18, Leicester (A) 2017/18,  Arsenal (H) 2017/18, Watford (H) 2018/19, Everton (H) 2018/19, Leicester (A) 2018/19 and Southampton (H) 2018/19 have helped shape our recent history.

He has already surpassed Owen, Martins, Bellamy and Ba so far. I wholeheartedly hope that he stays to surpass even more players so he can continue to prove the doubters wrong and score even more season defining goals for Rafa’s Mags.

Lazy, Slow, Weak. No.

By Jonathan Rookes