London: Alan Pardew has taken the plaudits for overseeing Newcastle United`s dramatic reversal in fortunes but after Sunday`s fifth consecutive win, the manager pointed to another man behind their resurgence.
Spanish striker Ayoze Perez, a close-season signing from Tenerife, struck his third goal in three league games with an exquisite backheel to open the scoring in a 2-0 victory at West Bromwich Albion in the Premier League.
Increased playing opportunities for the 21-year-old at the club have coincided with the Newcastle revival, four straight league victories coming either side of a surprise 2-0 win at English champions Manchester City in the League Cup to erach the quarter-finals.
This form has propelled the club to eighth in the league table with 16 points from 11 games, two adrift of the top four, a remarkable comeback for a team who were rock bottom six weeks ago.
Perez`s influence during this run is no coincidence.
"We worked hard to bring him to the football club," Pardew told reporters on Sunday of the 1.6 million pounds ($2.54 million) signing.
"We scouted him throughout last year. He was being courted by some big clubs, particularly Porto. But he loved the way we were so determined to bring him to this club.
"We thought his physicality could be an issue, but he has so much technical quality that you hope that sees him through – and it has.
"His goal (against West Brom) was worthy of winning any game. The cross had good pace on it, but he had to add pace with his flick. That’s outstanding. It was special."
Perez only made his first start for Newcastle two weeks ago in their 2-1 win away at Tottenham Hotspur, where he scored the winning goal.
Until then, the Spaniard had been used in short periods as a substitute in matches where Pardew`s team were already chasing the game, playing second fiddle to Papiss Cisse and misfiring Emmanuel Riviere, who is yet to score since his move from Monaco.
Perez followed his first strike with the winning goal after coming off the bench in the 1-0 home win over Liverpool a week later.
After scoring the vital goal on Sunday in his second start, Pardew must wish he had turned to Perez sooner in the season.