STAY hungry, stay foolish.
Those words are tattooed on Jonas Gutierrez’s right arm.
Gutierrez has come through a lot over the past year.
But he’s still hungry. And he’s still foolish.
He’s also back on the football field just months after being given the all-clear following treatment for testicular cancer.
And against Manchester United on Wednesday night he rolled the captain’s armband, handed to him by Fabricio Coloccini, up his left arm seconds after running on to the pitch to a deafening roar.
It was a special moment to be back. That was something that I have been fighting for since I was told I was in recovery. I enjoyed the atmosphere – it was emotional. I’m never going to forget this day.Jonas Gutierrez
It was a special moment for Gutierrez, who was undergoing chemotherapy in his native Argentina when Newcastle United’s season kicked off.
The 31-year-old – who had a testicle removed in late 2013 – had the “stay healthy, stay foolish” tattoo during his time on loan at Norwich City in the second half of last season.
They were spoken by the late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, at an address to Stanford University graduates in California a decade ago.
Months later, when the cancer returned, those words gave Gutierrez strength.
However, the winger wasn’t even thinking of playing football again as he underwent a debilitating course of chemotherapy.
“For me, since I knew I had to go through chemotherapy, I was just thinking day by day,” Gutierrez told the Gazette.
“What I wanted was to be healthy and finish the treatment – that was what I was thinking.
“I finished the treatment, and I wanted to see if I could play again.
“You never know how the body is going to react.
“In the first months it was hard – the body has to get used to training again every day. I was improving a bit every day.
“Now I feel strong and healthy and I am so pleased to play. I want to wait to get more opportunities on the pitch.”
Within a minute of his introduction, Gutierrez – who lost his trademark long hair during chemotherapy – had brought a run from Adnan Januzaj, 11 years his junior, to an abrupt end.
He wasn’t on the pitch just to make up the numbers, a point head coach John Carver made after the game, which decided in the visitors’s favour by an 89th-minute goal from Ashley Young.
Sentimentality, insisted Carver, didn’t come in it.
“It was a special moment to be back,” said Gutierrez.
“That was something that I have been fighting for since I was told I was in recovery.
“I wanted to be back. It was really good. I enjoyed the atmosphere – it was emotional. I’m never going to forget this day.
“The first few minutes, you can’t breathe properly. The game is a different speed.
“The first few minutes are the hardest, then you are used to the game. It’s normal to find it hard in the first few minutes. I made a good tackle, and then I started to enjoy it.
“I tried to start dribbling again with the ball and the things that I like to do.
“I feel better, and I try to improve all the time.”
It was just a shame the game was marred by a spitting incident and a mistake from referee Anthony Taylor, who should have awarded Newcastle an early penalty.
On the match itself, Gutierrez added: “I think the team worked hard. Maybe we didn’t have a great game – you always want to play better – but we played against a massive team with massive players.
“I think we did a great job, but you have to concentrate for 90 minutes.
“A little mistake or something, and you can concede. That’s what happened.
“We’re really disappointed because the team worked hard to get something from the game.”
Gutierrez returned to Tyneside in December, and after a series of low-key outings for the club’s Under-21 side in front of a few hundred fans, he felt he was ready to play in front of tens of thousands at St James’s Park.
“My mentality was to get my fitness and be involved,” he said. “I wanted to be positive and improve.
“I didn’t just want to train – I wanted more day by day. I did my best in training to get time on the pitch.
“When I get the time, I have to do it well.”
Coloccini’s armband gesture was warmly received by Gutierrez, his close friend and countryman.
“It was really good from Colo – it meant a lot,” said Gutierrez, who came close to joining Argentinian side Velez Sarsfield last month.
“He is like part of my family. Since we arrived together in Newcastle, and from seven years in the national year, there have been a lot of moments.
“We are so close. I was really pleased to get the captain’s armband.”
Long after the final whistle had been blown after the club’s 1-0 defeat to Man United, Gutierrez and Coloccini, inseparable off the pitch, left St James’s Park.
Gutierrez was clutching the shirt of Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, an unused substitute for the visitors.
Falcao, presumably, left St James’s Park with a black and white No18 jersey bearing the name of Jonas, a very special shirt given everything Gutierrez had gone through to wear it.
It’s a life-affirming story from which we can all draw inspiration.
Spider-Man is back.