Wigan complete signing of Newcastle defender James Perch

27-year-old leaves Magpies after Joe Kinnear's announcement that players will be moved on

Newcastle's summer rebuilding programme began today with a departure as James Perch completed his move to Wigan.

The 27-year-old utility man has moved for an undisclosed fee, understood to be in the region of £700,000, and signed a four-year deal after being told he was free to leave St James' Park.

Perch told the Championship club's official website, wiganlatics.co.uk: "It feels great to be here with a new challenge ahead of me, and I'm very excited at getting that started."

It is a measure of how the former Nottingham Forest defender's career on Tyneside had blossomed that news of his impending exit was greeted with dismay by Magpies fans.

Perch arrived at St James' during the summer of 2010 as then manager Chris Hughton attempted to bolster his squad for life back in the Barclays Premier League.

He initially found the going tough - he was booked in each of his first five top-flight games and missed the sixth as a result - but gradually adapted to the pace and power of the higher division to prove an important member of the squad.

The Mansfield-born player's versatility proved a boon to Hughton's successor Alan Pardew, who played him at different times as a full-back, a central defender and a holding midfielder.

Perch made 37 senior appearances last season, eight of them in the Europa League, and scored his first and only goal for the club in a thrilling 4-3 league defeat at Manchester United on Boxing Day last year.

It is understood the player was keen to stay at Newcastle and fight for his place, and there is little doubt that Pardew has valued his contribution during his time as manager.

Pardew has been keen too to establish a stronger British presence within his squad and, for that reason, a deal which will have relatively little impact on the club's finances has puzzled many.

New director of football Joe Kinnear has made a series of pronouncements - most of them poorly received by supporters - since his shock appointment last month and, in one, he insisted he would move on players he did not believe were good enough.

It remains to be seen if Perch fell into that category, and if the Magpies will replace him with a player they consider to be better.

Movement has been slow on the incoming front, with the club having shelved a move for FC Twente defender Douglas on which they had been working for more than a year while St Etienne striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang seems certain to opt for German side Borussia Dortmund.

Newcastle have an interest in Aston Villa frontman Darren Bent, but have little intention of matching the Midlands club's current valuation of the 29-year-old, while West Ham defender James Tomkins has also been mentioned in dispatches.

However, it should not be forgotten that owner Mike Ashley fast-tracked swoops for Moussa Sissoko and Yoan Gouffran in January with the club engaged in a desperate fight for top-flight survival, and those signings, as well as the three others which accompanied them, may well have had a knock-on effect for this summer's budget.

PA

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