Jonas Gutierrez capped what will most likely be a fairytale ending to his Newcastle career on Sunday as the Magpies escaped relegation thanks to his game-winning performance in the 2-0 win against West Ham United on the final day of the Premier League season.
Last fall, Gutierrez, a seven-year servant of the club, looked a forgotten man under former coach Alan Pardew, despite battling back to fitness after undergoing testicular cancer treatment in 2013 and 2014. After Pardew traded Newcastle for Crystal Palace in January, Gutierrez would have to wait until March 4 to make his first appearance for the club since his recovery from cancer under interim head coach John Carver. It was a 1-0 loss at Manchester United
After that game, the Magpies embarked on a truly dreadful run of form from which they lost eight in a row, before drawing at home to West Brom, losing at already-relegated QPR, then beating mid-table West Ham on the last day of the campaign to barely escape relegation.
Gutierrez, who has been outspoken in his criticism for the way Newcastle’s management treated him following his recovery from treatment, supplied a brilliant assist to Moussa Sissoko on the first goal, before scoring the second himself with a deflected shot from distance as the Magpies ensured their survival with that 2-0 win.
After the game, local paper The Evening Chronicle described the Argentine as Newcastle’s best player in the final weeks of the season, saying that the 31-year-old, who is out of contract as of June 30, arguably deserves an extension for his performances and dedication to the club’s fans.
But, in an interview following the game, Gutierrez revealed that that is most likely not going to happen. Instead, he took the opportunity to speak about the club that he’s served so faithfully for seven years.
“This club needs to change. [It needs to] improve and move forward,” he said. “My thought is that this club has to fight in the top ten, that is the target of this club, no less than that … We have to learn about this season, the mistakes that we have been making here and don’t do it again.”
Asked about his own future, he said: “For me, I finished my contract so I take it like that. You never know what can happen, what they can say but I enjoyed my seven years here. Now I am thinking of my holidays. Then we see what happens. It is important to have a holiday, go home and relax.”
Gutierrez also opened up about his cancer treatment. “The chemotherapy is a harsh treatment. Your body really feels it. You lose your hair with all the medication going into your body. It was hard,” he said, adding: “Watching your body in that type of state is hard. Anyway that is the treatment to recover. In those moments you don’t think about playing football again. Then the doctor says you are OK you can start again. I started to think: Oh well, let’s see what happens.”
For his steady performances, his recovery from what can be a terminal illness, his dedication to the club despite its treatment of him, and now, for helping save it from relegation on the final day of the 2014-15 season, Jonas Gutierrez will forever always a hero on Tyneside. Even he admitted, “It was like a movie! To finish like today scoring and an assist. It was amazing and I really enjoyed it – thanks to all the fans. Through my illness and from day one in fact, they have been unbelievable to me. I owe every one of them a thank you for supporting Newcastle, and supporting me.”
Contract extension or not, Gutierrez has rightfully cemented himself a place in Newcastle United folklore, but he is an example for everyone.
Off The Post can’t wait to read his book someday.
While we wait for Jonas Gutierrez' book someday, we can learn about "battling back to fitness after undergoing testicular cancer treatment" by taking another look at Lance Armstrong's memoir "It's Not About the Bike." Setting aside Armstrong's later fall, suspending disbelief for the moment, we can share vividly his time of grace and recovery, leading to his start-up of Livestrong Cancer Foundation, which continues to lead in helping cancer survivors live strong.