JONAS Gutierrez has been hailed as an inspiration to Newcastle United’s young players after making his long-awaited comeback.
Gutierrez captained Peter Beardsley’s Under-21 side to a 4-1 win over West Ham United yesterday.
It was the 31-year-old winger’s first appearance for the club since getting the all-clear after treatment for testicular cancer in his native Argentina.
Gutierrez – who now hopes to push for a first-team recall – lasted 87 minutes of the Under-21 Premier League Cup tie at Whitley Park. After the game, he thanked Newcastle fans for their support on Twitter during his battle against cancer.
Gutierrez tweeted: “Thanks to all the fans for the support that you give through my illness, I am proud to be back. Good game and really happy. Thanks.”
Former Newcastle forward Beardsley, the club’s Under-21 coach, paid tribute to Gutierrez after the game.
“He’s a perfect example to the young lads,” said Beardsley.
“He’s played in the World Cup, and is different class. It’s great for him to be here.
“He’s brilliant with the lads – brilliant on and off the pitch – and a great personality. It was an honour to be part of his first game back.
“I made him captain and, it sounds stupid, but he said thanks when I gave him the armband.
“The reaction of the crowd was brilliant, and they were all here for him. He got a great response from them at the end.
“He was knackered at the end, and he’s going to be a bit sore tomorrow. It’s a massive bonus to have him back.”
Goals from Gael Bigirimana, Adam Campbell, Callum Roberts and Liam Gibson put United into the next round of the cup.
Toon boss Alan Pardew said he expects Gutierrez – who is out of contract at Newcastle next summer – to be challenging for a place in his squad within weeks, having been impressed with his fitness since he returned to the club.
Asked if Gutierrez could make a Premier League return, Beardsley said: “He’s always been the sort of player who runs around and never stops, but I don’t know.
“It’s the manager’s call, but I would be delighted to have him with us for ever. I’m being selfish about getting senior players with us.
“It was brilliant for us. It’s a special game for us, for him it was normal.
“It’s not my call. Without being negative, I don’t know what stage Jonas is at. It’s nice to see him looking so well.”
Gutierrez was watched on his comeback by close friend Fabricio Coloccini – United’s captain – and a number of first-team players, including Paul Dummett, Adam Armstrong and Gabriel Obertan, as well as coaches Steve Stone and Andy Woodman.
And Sunderland manager Gus Poyet was back on Tyneside less than 24 hours after his side on the 151st Tyne-Wear derby 1-0.
Poyet was watching his son Diego, who was playing for West Ham.
n SOUTH Shields Mags are running a coach to Newcastle’s FA Cup tie away to Leicester City on January 3. The bus will run from the Lord Ashley Pub, Stanhope Street, South Shields. To book a seat, call Kris on 07730 508 362.