Gutierrez poised for Magpies return
Jonas Gutierrez could make an emotional and timely return for Newcastle after beating cancer just as Cheick Tiote's season looks to have come to a premature end.
The 31-year-old Argentina international has a chance of being named among the substitutes for Saturday's Barclays Premier League visit of Aston Villa, almost 17 months after his last appearance and more than 21 since he last pulled on the black and white shirt on Tyneside.
Gutierrez, already a popular figure with the Toon Army before he was struck down by testicular cancer, is guaranteed a hero's welcome if he is involved at St James' Park, although head coach John Carver insists sentiment played no part in his decision to include the South American winger in his squad.
He said: "It's totally a football decision. I've been asked whether he might get a swansong before the end of the season, but I have never even been thinking about a swansong. Why would it be a swansong?
"I just want to make a football decision, and that is that it's right to put him on the bench. If I need to put him on the pitch, then I will.
"First of all, to actually come back and play in the Premier League again would be magnificent. He's had a hard fight. When I first saw him, I was really concerned, but I suppose that's natural because he has come from a serious illness.
"Over the weeks, he has got fitter and stronger. Today, more than any other, I have seen the old Jonas Gutierrez."
Gutierrez was given the all-clear in November last year and returned to training with the Magpies the following month, but only last week, Carver admitted he was not yet fit enough to be considered for a first-team return.
However, the 50-year-old was quick to dispel rumours that he had been told by owner Mike Ashley or managing director Lee Charnley not to play the midfielder, whose contract, which expires at the end of the season, is understood to include a clause which automatically triggers a new deal if he plays a specified number of games.
Carver said: "I know all the rumours have been out there about whether it's Mike or Lee's decision, but let me tell you and let me put the record straight, I've had no conversations with either of them about Jonas because I'm the one who picks the team.
'Listen, I'm telling you now, when we announce the team at the weekend and our fans hear that Jonas is on the bench, can you imagine the feeling in the stadium? There is going to be a feel-good factor.
"But I'm not doing it for that reason, I'm doing it for football reasons and he's ready to be involved in the Premier League."
Gutierrez's impending reintroduction comes with Remy Cabella set to miss out again with a knee problem and Tiote facing the rest of the campaign on the sidelines after undergoing surgery on the knee which kept him out of much of the Ivory Coast's triumphant African Nations Cup campaign.
Carver said: "He had the operation on Sunday. Communication is not great at the minute, so we are trying to get more and more, but I think he'll stay there for a while.
"He's in Qatar and I think he's there because the surgeon who did his operation from Belgium on his thigh when he was at FC Twente, he's the guy who did the operation, so he is going to stay out there for a little bit of recovery time and then come back."
Asked if that could mean the end of his season, Carver replied: "I would have thought so, yes."