JAMES Perch has backed “unbelievable” duo Sammy Ameobi and Shane Ferguson to break into the Newcastle United first team before the end of the season.
In a memorable testimonial to the young pair, Perch has backed the skilful younger Ameobi brother for a “big future” in the Premier League and insists worries about Ferguson’s size should be set to one side.
The Newcastle midfielder says the Northern Ireland international is “made of steel” and impossible to knock off the ball in training.
Although United’s start to the campaign has been a stuttering one domestically, the big plus for manager Alan Pardew is the emergence of a crop of younger players who look like they can provide something for the first team.
Ameobi junior, Ferguson and Gaël Bigirimana are the three who have done the most to impress Newcastle fans and Perch – who has continued his progress in a black and white shirt – thinks there is much more to come. With Pardew considering changes for the trip to Anfield, Sammy Ameobi is under consideration for a starting berth as Newcastle look to inject some pace into their starting XI. And Ferguson, who started against Manchester United, could also get the nod as the Newcastle boss ponders changes at both full-back slots.
“There is strength in depth here,” Perch said.
“With playing in Europe the manager has to make a few changes and, although we believed it on the training ground, perhaps we have surprised a few people by how much strength we have got in and around the first team.
“We have players who can play against any team.
“Shane and Sammy have both come in and played perfectly. As a squad we are doing well and there are a few young ones who are pushing their claim.
“Fergie has done really well and Sammy has been brilliant lately. It is a credit to those lads because playing in the reserves is very different to the first team and they have settled in very quickly.”
Ferguson’s progress was stunted by a succession of injuries last season, but Pardew has always rated the defender.
The boss once said that he would put him on a diet of steak and milk to bulk him up, but having crossed him in training, Perch feels there is nothing to worry about on that front.
He said: “Shane is made of steel. People look at him and think he could easily be pushed off the ball, but it is nothing like that.
“There is a real firmness about his game and he never gets pushed over.
“He is a typical Irishman, very tough and very hard. Everyone he plays against will be taller and bigger than him, but he works very hard in training and he is getting what he deserves.”
On the subject of Ameobi junior, who has impressed in the last two games, Perch believes that Newcastle have unearthed a creative talent who deserves time on the pitch.
He said: “Sammy’s feet are unbelievable and he is a great talent.
“I just hope he can kick on now and start playing regularly because every player needs someone like him. He needs to just stay in the team, keep going, keep learning and he will have a very bright future.
“Him and Shola have great skill for big lads. Sammy has got all the flicks you need in the locker. He does that all the time and he does it really well. The flick against Brugge which set up the goal was tremendous.”
Meanwhile, Perch is hoping to continue his own black-and-white renaissance at Anfield this weekend. Along with Davide Santon he has made the most starts of anyone in the Newcastle squad this season – a remarkable turnaround for a player who seemed to be on his way out a year ago.
“The gaffer has put a lot of faith in me and I owe him a lot,” he said.
“When he first came I was out of the picture in the first team, but he stuck with me and I stuck at it. I owe him so much. I am just so glad to have got so many games under my belt.”