Passionate Perez's Derby Dream
Written by Newcastle Utd
Ayoze Perez says Newcastle's players want to make their fans proud in Sunday's Tyne-Wear derby against Sunderland
By Dan King - Newcastle United Digital Editor
Earlier this week, it was revealed that Ayoze PÃ©rez is the 11th most popular player in the Barclays Premier League based on sales of replica shirts, and as Newcastle United prepare for Easter Sunday's derby against Sunderland the man from Santa Cruz is looking to further etch his name into the hearts of the Tyneside faithful.
According to figures released by Sports Direct, the UK's largest sporting retailer, PÃ©rez has sold more shirts than the likes of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, David Silva and John Terry this term; not bad for a 21-year-old in his first season in England's top flight.
Until his move to Newcastle last summer he was playing for his hometown club CD Tenerife in Spain's second tier, Liga Adelante. He scored 16 goals last term and was chosen as the division's Best Breakthrough Player and Best Attacking Midfielder at the Liga de FÃºtbol Profesional's annual awards.
Among the highlights of that stunning campaign in his homeland came in Tenerife's derby against UD Las Palmas at Estadio Heliodoro RodrÃguez LÃ³pez in December 2013.
Traditionally, Las Palmas are the more successful club - they were La Liga runners-up behind Real Madrid in 1968-69 and Copa del Rey finalists in 1978 - and boast the better head-to-head record. This was PÃ©rez's first senior derby match and, at the age of 20, the biggest game of his career at that point.
He scored two goals in a 3-0 win and went home with the man of the match award.
"A derby is always a special game," PÃ©rez told nufc.co.uk. "It means more than three points. The fans live it with passion.
"My memories of the Canary Islands derby couldn't be better. It was an unforgettable day for me and I hope to repeat this match on Sunday in the Tyne-Wear derby.
"I know a derby is a special game for the team and the fans. It's a different game, a game that the players love to play.
"The derbies are for the fans. We want to make our fans proud of the team.
"The best thing after the derby would be to see the kids wearing their Newcastle jerseys at school with pride. That's what we want and we are going to fight to get it."
PÃ©rez played in last December's Tyne-Wear clash at St. James' Park, when Adam Johnson scored with seconds left on the clock to give the Black Cats a fourth successive derby win.
And the Spain under-21 international is desperate for Newcastle to end that run at the weekend.
"In the first derby, I realised the importance of the match here in the region and I loved the atmosphere at St. James'," he said.
"This Sunday, I know the atmosphere will be completely different but this is a motivation too.
"We have to give everything. The fans deserve it."
Photograph of Ayoze PÃ©rez celebrating his second goal for Tenerife against Las Palmas courtesy of ElDorsal.com