Tyneside has been holding out for a hero for months.
But Newcastle United have long had a good man in Jonas Gutierrez.
And the one abiding memory of a troubled and troubling Premier League season will be a joyous and emotional Gutierrez celebrating his 12th and final goal for the club in yesterday’s 2-0 win over West Ham United.
For once, Gutierrez didn’t don a Spider-Man mask to celebrate his strike five minutes from time at St James’s Park.
But he didn’t have to, as everyone inside the stadium knew they’d seen a heroic effort from a man who had been battling cancer a few short months ago in his native Argentina.
In the end, Gutierrez’s goal – and the earlier strike from Moussa Sissoko – were immaterial in terms of the club’s fate.
Hull City’s goalless draw against Manchester United at the KC Stadium meant that the club would have stayed up whatever the result at St James’s Park.
The club ended the campaign in 15th place, four points above Steve Bruce’s side.
But Gutierrez battled for his club the same way he had battled cancer.
He gave everything. The 31-year-old snapped into challenges, threw himself into blocks and ran himself into the ground.
If only some of his team-mates had played with the same zeal, the same energy, over the past few months.
And until Gutierrez crossed for Sissoko in the 54th minute, nothing was certain.
There was only uncertainty on Tyneside and Humberside.
Newcastle had started well enough – Papiss Demba Cisse, Emmanuel Riviere and Daryl Janmaat all had first-half chances – but they hadn’t troubled Adrian in the West Ham goal. The score remained goalless at the break, and the afternoon needed something special.
Newcastle, as so often this season, had lacked ideas and inspiration in the final third of the pitch.
Cue Gutierrez, whose left-wing cross was headed past Adrian by Sissoko, who ran to the home dugout to celebrate with his team-mates and the club’s backroom staff.
The relief inside St James’s Park, which had seen Emmanuel Riviere miss a sitter minutes earlier, was palpable.
There was to be no way back for West Ham, whose fans chanted “you’re getting sacked in the morning” at their manager Sam Allardyce later in the half.
As it was, Allardyce’s exit – not sacking – was confirmed minutes after the final whistle.
And the former Newcastle manager left St James’s Park on his own, but that’s another story.
This story is about Gutierrez, though midfielder Vurnon Anita was also outstanding for the club.
Anita was tenacious in the tackle, and he ran and ran.
So too did Gutierrez, whose right-footed shot took a deflection on its way past Adrian in the 85th minute.
Like Sissoko, Gutierrez also ran to the touchline clutching his shirt as the club’s fans celebrated joyously all around him, something they haven’t been able to do much in months.
The joy was seemingly sucked out of attending games at St James’s Park long ago.
Only time will tell if owner Mike Ashley – who pledged to “invest” in the club this summer – is good to his word.
Ashley also insisted that he would not sell Newcastle until they have won something – or qualified for the Champions League. To do that, you need winners, and Gutierrez has shown a winning mentality on and off the pitch this season.
Newcastle need more like him, not less.
Yet the club was willing to let him go to Velez Sarsfield, his old team in Buenos Aires, back in February, seemingly to reduce the wage bill with the club in a comfortable mid-table position.
It was a potentially-disastrous decision given the obvious weaknesses in Carver’s squad, whatever doubts there may have been about Gutierrez’s ability to again perform at the highest level given what he just gone through.
Gutierrez even made the 7,000-mile journey to Argentina, only to return when the proposed move, fortunately for Newcastle, broke down.
Since making his comeback in early March, Gutierrez has made 10 appearances for the club.
And the last one of those will long be remembered on Tyneside, his adpoted home for the past seven years.
It was a happy ending to an unhappy season.