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Sunday 4 December 2016

Gutierrez: Toon must avoid repeat

Published 25/05/2015 | 13:06

Jonas Gutierrez, right, may have played his last game for Newcastle
Jonas Gutierrez, right, may have played his last game for Newcastle

Jonas Gutierrez has urged Newcastle to ensure they never again flirt so dangerously with the prospect of relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

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The Magpies found themselves within 90 minutes of plunging into the Sky Bet Championship on Sunday when they belatedly produced a performance worthy of their top-flight status to beat West Ham 2-0 on the final day of the campaign and in the process, ensure it was Hull and not them who plummeted out of the big time.

It proved an emotional day for Argentina international Gutierrez, who started the season battling his way back from testicular cancer, but ended it with the goal which cemented victory and Premier League safety in what seems likely to be his last game for the club with his contract due to expire at the end of next month.

But while he may not be among the squad when it re-assembles for pre-season training in July, the 31-year-old, who was part of the group which went down in 2009 to fight its way back at the first attempt, knows things have to change if the club is to avoid another titanic struggle.

Gutierrez told nufcTV: "Of course, and that's why I say what this club deserves, and that's why I say I respect a lot the Championship, because it's not easy to come back. It's hard. Not many teams that go down come back in the first year.

"But this is a massive club which has to always look forward, to improve and to not have this situation again because these fans deserve that.

"To finish like this is incredible, like a movie story. But the most important thing for me is that Newcastle next year are going to be in the Premier League .

"The fans, the city deserve always to be in the top flight, they don't deserve to be in the Championship. I respect the Championship because it is tough - I have played in there - but this is a massive club and they have to be always fighting to be in the top [division] and at least in the top 10."

At the end of a traumatic few months on Tyneside, it all boiled down to a tense one-off game in which only victory would guarantee survival, and it was the man with perhaps the greatest perspective in the squad following his successful battle against testicular cancer who took centre stage.

It was Gutierrez's cross which allowed fellow midfielder Moussa Sissoko to head powerfully home with 54 minutes played, and his deflected strike from distance with five minutes remaining which ultimately confirmed salvation on a day when Newcastle would have been safe anyway because of Hull's failure to beat Manchester United.

He said: "It was unbelievable. All this was like a dream."

Tyneside heaved a huge sigh of relief as referee Martin Atkinson brought an end to proceedings, but while the Toon Army had turned out in force on a day when their unwavering support for the team, if not the regime, was required, there was no losing sight of the fact that radical change is needed to address the failings which prompted such a demoralising downward spiral.

Owner Mike Ashley took the unprecedented step of conducting a television interview shortly before kick-off in which he acknowledged the problems and promised to address them, and the first decision the club will have to make is whether or not John Carver will be granted his wish to continue as head coach.

But whatever else happens, the chances of Gutierrez extending his seven-year stay look remote, and he took his leave of the Toon Army grateful for their support on and off the pitch.

He said: "Since I arrived in Newcastle, they have been fantastic. Through my illness, they were unbelievable, always sent me support, love.

"I am really proud to be a Geordie - they adopted me like a Geordie, so I have to say thanks to all the Newcastle fans because I have really enjoyed my seven years over here."

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