JAMES Perch has thanked Newcastle United’s fans for their support after reluctantly leaving St James’s Park.
Perch yesterday joined signed a four-year deal with Championship club Wigan Athletic.
After a difficult start to life at Newcastle, the 27-year-old eventually came into his own at the club, with his versatility proving a invaluable to manager Alan Pardew, whose hand was weakened by injuries last season.
However, Perch – who had a year left on his United contract – wasn’t offered a new deal.
And the wisdom of letting him go has been questioned on Tyneside given his contribution to the cause over the past two years.
The departures of Perch, Danny Simpson and Steve Harper have left the club with only a small number of senior English players, among them Steven Taylor, Rob Elliot and Ryan Taylor.
United’s recruitment has increasingly been focused on the French market, where the club feels there is better value.
“I understand Newcastle’s new transfer policy,” said Perch. “Time will tell if that’s the right route.
“But I loved it up there, the fans are incredible, and I’ll never forget them.”
Once it became clear he was surplus to requirements at St James’s Park, signing for Wigan wasn’t a difficult decision.
“There was a lot of interest from other clubs, but Wigan is a great club, and I’m looking forward to playing in Europe again,” said Perch, who will again be playing on the continent next season with Wigan having qualified for the Europa League by winning the FA Cup.
“I played 37 games last season, but the big factor from Wigan was they wanted me quickly.”
Perch became something of a cult figure on Tyneside and the Mansfield-born player, signed from Nottingham Forest in 2010, will always cherish the relationship he forged with the club’s fans during his time in the North East.
“The fans in Newcastle were amazing,” said Perch.
“I’m overwhelmed by all of the messages. I had a great rapport with the fans up there.”
Meanwhile, United supporters, having seen Perch, Harper and Simpson leave, are still waiting on the club’s first summer signing.
There were hopes of a transfer breakthrough before new director of football Joe Kinnear takes a short holiday next week that was booked before his appointment.
However, the club has so far been frustrated in its transfer-window efforts.
There were reports yesterday that Newcastle were considering moving for former target Loic Remy, now at QPR.
However, the 26-year-old – who opted against a move to St James’s Park in January – is not understood to be an immediate target.