IT’S been a long journey for Jonas Gutierrez, emotionally and physically.
And the short journey from Gutierrez’s home to St James’s Park had a special significance.
Gutierrez, given the all-clear after treatment for testicular cancer late last year, hadn’t visited the stadium since returning to Tyneside in December.
Not once. He couldn’t make the journey until he was ready to play.
And, finally, he is ready to play for Newcastle United.
On Saturday, Gutierrez – who last played for the club in October 2013 – drove from his house to St James’s Park for the home game against Aston Villa.
I’m ready. I’m going to try to do my best when I have my opportunity. I’m going to fight for that.Jonas Gutierrez
The normally-mundane journey was anything but mundane for Gutierrez.
“I had never been here since, because it’s hard to come here and not be involved,” Gutierrez told the Gazette.
“In my first five years here, I always came to the ground to play.
“It’s hard to not get changed and not have the opportunity to play. I prefer to watch the game on TV.
“It was special. It was a long time since I had driven from my house to St James’s Park.
“It was all emotional and special. I try to do it until the end of the season.”
Gutierrez – who was inundated with messages of support as he fought cancer in his native Argentina – didn’t make it off the bench, but he felt the warmth from the crowd in the build-up and every time he warmed up during the club’s 1-0 win.
The Argentina international, however, wants to earn applause on the field between now and the end of the season.
“I really appreciated that,” said Gutierrez. “The fans were always so good with me. They sent me a lot of messages of support. They gave me a lot of power.
“I’m so happy. I think they enjoyed that I was here again.
“I really enjoyed the moment. Now, I go for more.
“I’m ready. I’m going to try to do my best when I have my opportunity. I’m going to fight for that.
“I’m going to do my best to push and get my place back. When I start, I don’t want to lose my place.
“What I can do is work hard. In football, you never know. Things change quickly. I want to be ready.
“The supporters were really important.”