Cisse... Coback... ... ... GUTIERREZ!!! Can there be a more popular goalscorer?! The man who knows the true meaning of survival makes sure that Newcastle do survive at this level in what is probably his last game for the club!!
I cannot lie to you. When Jonas scored his goal in the 85th minute against West Ham, it didn't matter that it wasn't the most beautiful goal that had ever been struck. It's probably not in the top million of goals, really. It didn't matter, though. The tears were as instantaneous as they were real. The narrative was spoken as passionately by the fan reaction to the goal as it could ever be in any number of words that have been published since. Although in the overall scope of the 2014-15 Premier League the goal was practically meaningless, it was in every sense the perfect goal. In truth, it was a moment of needed release for a fan base that has grown used to lifeless, gutless performances over a number of years.
Jonás Gutiérrez made 205 appearances for Newcastle United. The vast majority of these appearances came while the club had top-flight status, but 41 of them came while the club was in the Championship. This, however, is not the reason that his goal resonated so absolutely with the Toon Army. After all, Fabricio Coloccini went down with the club and came back up. If it were purely that which qualified a player for adulation, Captain Colo would be held in the same esteem. Coloccini's frequent attempts to engineer a move away from the club and his lifeless performances when the chips were yet again down under his "leadership" preclude any adulation that may be afforded him for the down-and-back affection. The connection between Jonás and the fans was built on something deeper.
Perhaps it was the disdain with which he was treated by Alan Pardew... just the same as the fans.
Perhaps it was his open contempt for Mike Ashley... just the same as the fans.
Perhaps it was his willingness to be one of the only voices out there saying that we deserve better.
It was certainly partially the fact that, even when he was overmatched, he went out every time he put on the shirt and did the graft. He is the living embodiment of the desire expressed in that famous banner. He went out every time and tried. He tried because he honestly believes that the fans deserve that much.
We knew that Jonás' time on Tyneside was coming to an end. His age probably factored in to that decision. His open criticism of the club certainly didn't help any attempt to gain a new contract. In spite of his effort, it was becoming more and more clear that he was losing his ability to influence a match in the way that he once could. He was bound to be one of the first examples of Mike Ashley's Brand New Attitude. We'll see whether he is replaced and if that player is an upgrade over what Jonás brought to this club. In the meantime, what we do know is that one of the most popular players in recent times is not with our club any longer. At least not physically.
I am at peace with Jonás Gutierrez's departure from our club. In his final match for us – the fans, that is – he was immense. In spite of eroding skill and the medical hardship which he overcame, for 90 minutes, he gave everything that he had... directly to us. His goal may not have truly been the one that kept us up, but it was the goal that he and the support deserved. Instead of watching him waste his final playing days slipping toward the bench or playing with the reserves or on loan to whichever backwater Lee Charnley could contrive to send him, he has gone out in the best possible way. We have the most perfect match as our lasting memory of a great man and a great Magpie. When the club and fans needed someone – anyone – to stand up and be counted, it was the man who had been treated so poorly by the club during his fight against cancer. He gave a titanic performance as his calling card. He made the first goal. He scored the second. His performance could not have been scripted any more perfectly. He gave every ounce of effort, every bit of quality, every shred of his being directly to the fans on that day.
We will miss you, Jonás. You are an inspiration to us all. You are a great man, have been a great servant to the club and the fans, and have earned every bit of the title Geordie. Although your departure hurts, I am at peace with it. You couldn't have signed off in a more perfect way.