JONAS Gutierrez backed Alan Pardew to be manager of the season after captaining Newcastle United to a remarkable win over Liverpool.
Pardew’s side won 2-0 at St James’s Park yesterday thanks to Papiss Demba Cisse’s two goals.
The result moved sixth-placed Newcastle 11 points clear of Liverpool in eighth.
The game was forgettable for former United striker Andy Carroll, booked for an early dive and derided as he was substituted, as well Gutierrez’s close friend Jose Enrique, who ended the afternoon in goal after Pepe Reina’s late dimissal.
Boss Pardew’s judgement was questioned when he sold Carroll, while Enrique’s sale split fans.
However, Newcastle have not looked back since the striker left the club in January last year, and Enrique’s claim last summer that the club would never challenge for a top-six place under Mike Ashley has proved to be wrong.
Asked if Pardew is a contender for manager of the season, Gutierrez told the Gazette: “He has to be.
“If you look at the results he’s got, and if you think of the expectations before the season started, nobody would have expected Newcastle to be in the top six.
“The fans didn’t even think that here. He’s doing a great job here.
“He was last year as well, but we have to keep doing a great job here. He was last year as well, but we have to keep doing a good job for him. If he got manager of the year, it will be a proud moment for him and for the players.”
Pardew was unloved when he succeeded the popular Chris Hughton in December 2010, yet he’s steadily won over the club’s supporters, and is now as popular as any manager since Sir Bobby Robson.
“It’s amazing,” said Gutierrez. “Back then, it was a surprise that Chris didn’t stay.
“The fans enjoyed watching the team under Chris, so it meant Alan came here under a difficult situation.
“But he has focused on his job, and done really, really well.
“He’s got a gift, and he can work well during difficult times.
“When you throw in that it was made hard for him in pre-season when a lot of players left, it makes it an even better job.”
Liverpool made the better start, but their performance unravelled after Carroll was shown a yellow card for a dive after going to ground despite no contact from goalkeeper Tim Krul.
And Cisse’s 19th-minute goal put them in control, the striker adding another in the 59th minute.
“We put in a great performance,” said Gutierrez, handed the captain’s armband in the absence through injury of his Argentinian countryman Fabricio Coloccini.
“The whole team played really well. Maybe the first 15 minutes was the worst time for us, but then we got control of the ball.”
On the honour of captaining United, Gutierrez, playing as a makeshift left-back, added: “It was a proud day for me, but more importantly we have won again.
“It was about getting three points.”