Why Ayoze Perez is becoming a key figure at Newcastle

The youngster was set for a low-key season but his performances have given boss Steve McClaren much to think about.

With a flurry of attacking signings this summer, there was a brief moment when Ayoze Perez seemed to have been lost in the aftermath of Steve McClaren’s new-look Newcastle United.

It looked as if the Spaniard was set for a quieter campaign this year after being an unused substitute in Newcastle’s first two league games.

The slender 22-year-old, signed for a bargain fee from Tenerife in July 2014, was expected by many to be one for the future. Perez seemingly had other ideas, notching up seven goals in 36 Premier League games last year after being fast-tracked into the first team due to injury.

It was a case of déjà vu for Perez one year on, thrown into a starting role against Manchester United in late August, again due to injuries. Once again, Perez hasn’t looked back after playing a major role in earning his side a precious point at Old Trafford.

Previously deployed as a striker, Perez has thrown himself into a new, deeper role, drifting in from the touchline to give an added threat to Newcastle’s frontline.

His energetic play has come to embody the spirit that has been missing from many of his teammate’s displays as The Magpies still search for their first league win of the season.

It’s especially true of big-money signing Florian Thauvin, viewed by The Magpies as Perez's replacement this season, whose poor attitude and wasteful quality has been there for all to see.

Boss Steve McClaren has, to his credit, benched his signing Thauvin in favour of Perez, and it has paid dividends. A goal against Chelsea on Saturday earned Newcastle another valuable point where many before kick-off saw defeat as a foregone conclusion.

In a time where results are not forthcoming, fans are desperate to see players run themselves ragged for the badge. Perez's displays have been typified by his hard work, making senior stars look sluggish in his wake.

Leaders often rise from strange places and there are signs that the Spanish Under-21 is on his way to becoming an important figure on Tyneside.

With crucial ties against Norwich City, Sunderland, and Stoke City following this weekend’s trip to Manchester City, Newcastle must pick up points quickly if they are to head into the winter months outside of the relegation zone.

Perez could be the difference between picking up points and picking up none, just as he's done before. We knew it before, and Steve McClaren knows now.

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