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Exclusive Pérez interview in Saturday's programme

Written by Tom Easterby

Last month, Newcastle United's Ayoze Pérez reached the 125-appearance mark for the club, scoring in the 2-2 draw at Southampton.

The Spanish forward is now in his fourth season at St. James' Park, in which time he has burst onto the Premier League scene, represented his country at under-21 level, suffered relegation and helped the Magpies to promotion back to the top flight. It’s been quite a journey for the 24-year-old.

Pérez is the player in focus in Saturday’s matchday programme for the visit of Watford, and he sat down for an exclusive interview with the publication this week.

In it, he reflects on his time at the club so far and his link with the Newcastle United Foundation, of which he is an ambassador.

The former Tenerife frontman also discusses the criticism that has been aimed at him from some quarters in recent months, as well as the progression he’s made under manager Rafa Benítez.

“Tactically, he has been massive for me, and also mentally, to be honest. I used to be a player who, with a mistake, would feel a bit of pressure. Now that’s getting much better. I’m improving in that way, and that’s because of Rafa,” he told UNITED.

“Mentally, he has been key for me – I needed it. I needed that bit of work to be stronger mentally. I used to complain, and think things you shouldn’t think. With Rafa, in this case, he makes sure people forget about that, and focus on football. Whatever mistake, anything that happens, cannot affect us in the wrong way. He’s always trying to make sure we’re focused on football, and that’s it. The team has improved a lot in that way.

“In football, you have to realise that a lot of things can happen in a good way and in a bad way, so the control of them, those emotions, is key.”

Also in Saturday’s issue, Disability Football Development Officer Reggie Dornan tells his story in United Backstage, while there is also an interview with Welsh forward Malcolm Allen – who scored United’s first winning goal in the Premier League.

Club Historian Paul Joannou reveals more about the newly-created Former Players Association and we get to know young midfielder Dan Ward a bit better in High Hopes.

And there is also a tribute to the late Paul Tully, the club’s former programme editor, who sadly passed away earlier this month.

To read all of this – and much more – pick up a copy of UNITED, which will be on sale around St. James’ Park and in the club store on Saturday, priced at just £3.

"Tactically, he has been massive for me, and also mentally, to be honest. I used to be a player who, with a mistake, would feel a bit of pressure. Now that’s getting much better. I’m improving in that way, and that’s because of Rafa."

Ayoze Pérez

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