AYOZE PEREZ accepts he has not hit the heights he would have liked in a Newcastle United shirt this season, but insists he can handle the doubters questioning whether he can help the team turn things around.

Perez was left out of the starting line-up last weekend but emerged from the bench early in the second half to go on and hit the winner against Watford.

There were even negative vibes from sections of fans when Perez was standing on the touchline waiting to replace the injured Yoshinori Muto.

But he silenced his critics with the winner before putting his fingers in ears in reference to the jeers he had received from the stands.

"There are two things you can think when you are left out,” said Perez. “You can think in a bad way, start thinking too much. I think the best thing you can do is be honest with yourself.

“Obviously, respect the decision, and then, as soon as you have the opportunity, prove that you're able to do it. That's it. That's the main thing.

“As a footballer, we like to complain and make excuses, but that doesn't help you. In this case, the main thing is to believe in yourself and keep going in the right direction and prove what you can do.”

Last season Perez finished top scorer with ten goals for Newcastle and a sign of how frustrated he has been this time around is that his strike against Watford was his first this season.

But he doesn’t need reminding. He said: “I'm honest with myself. Nobody needs to tell me if I'm doing well, better or not. I think, as a footballer, I realise when I'm doing well and I'm not doing well. That's it.

“The thing is how you react to that and how you take it. That's it. It wasn't been the best performance by me during the beginning of the season, but what is also true is that I've had a couple of chances, and with a bit of luck, we would have been talking about something different.”

Perez should be thrust back into the starting line-up against Bournemouth this Saturday, as Newcastle look to continue the climb up the table.

The fixture represents another opportunity for Matt Ritchie to take on his former club, having left the Cherries in the summer of 2016 in a £12m deal to help Newcastle’s promotion charge in the Championship.

Ritchie, knowing Bournemouth have gone from strength to strength since then, said: “It certainly doesn't frustrate me to see them doing better than us at this time.

“Far from it in fact. The way they've started the season really pleases me. I couldn't be happier for them.

"To see so many people I left behind doing well, that's great. It was my decision to leave Bournemouth because, Newcastle was the place I wanted to be and it's the same now.

"It’s a challenge I have relished taking on and I still am. For all the good times I had at Bournemouth, not for one moment have I regretted the move.

“I take an enormous amount of pleasure watching them Match of the Day and seeing lads I spent so much time with doing so well.

"We were such a tight group at Bournemouth. The manager, all the staff, everyone involved, I was there for years with them so that club is still very much part of me.

"It makes me so proud to sit back knowing I played my own part in getting a fantastic club to where they are today.”

Newcastle will be looking to make it two wins from two on Saturday and Rafael Benitez is relieved to have striker Salomon Rondon available after his return to the side last weekend.

He said: "I think it will benefit him to have played for 90 minutes, even if it isn't what we were planning [before the Watford game].

"His match fitness is still not ideal, and maybe we were expecting him to play just 70 minutes, or something like that, against Watford.

"He had to play 90 minutes after the injuries we had, he was working very hard and giving us something different. Then, during the week, he has been training - and, even though we thought he would be tired, he was doing really, really well.

"With all that, I think it was only a good thing for him to have played 90 minutes last week, and hopefully we see that on Saturday.”