May 24, 2015:
St. James’ Park erupts.
Newcastle, on the brink of relegation, have just gone 2-0 up against West Ham on the final day of the season. The Geordies entered the game knowing a win would ensure the condemnation of Hull City to the Championship, as well as their own survival.
A fan favourite has scored the all important goal, after assisting Moussa Sissoko for the first. He wheels away to celebrate, and the fans rise to their feet to salute him.
Argentinian midfielder Jonas Gutierrez, known affectionately as ‘Spider-man,’ has helped the Magpies to survive after surviving testicular cancer himself.
It was a fairy tale end to the season for a player who’d only returned in March after successful surgery and treatment in October.
The game finished 2-0, confirming safety for Newcastle, and Jonas was lauded by supporters and pundits alike for the most admirable of comebacks.
Despite the important win, Newcastle fans remained in the stadium afterwards to direct chants of “Get Out Of Our Club” at controversial owner Mike Ashley.
April 15, 2016:
11 months on, Newcastle find themselves in another relegation battle, and Mike Ashley is less popular than ever.
There has been a distinct lack of passion on show for large parts of the season, and a combination of poor results and worse performances cost Steve Mc Claren his job.
The club are currently languishing in 19th position, and Rafa Benitez has inherited the difficult task of keeping Newcastle in the division.
But what about Jonas?
The long term Newcastle servant was informed of his release via a phone call then interim manager John Carver made to defender Ryan Taylor.
To say that the club’s treatment of the Argentinian has been unsavoury is to put it mildly.
Despite his heroics, Jonas was released at the end of the 2014/15 season. Yesterday, an employment tribunal found that Gutierrez was dropped by Newcastle United because of his cancer diagnosis after he launched a disability discrimination lawsuit against his former club.
Jonas took to Twitter after the decision to vent take aim at Ashley;
The tribunal also decided that the Magpies made it impossible for the Argentine midfielder to trigger an appearance-based contract extension, and two more charges of unfavourable treatment and disability harassment were dropped.
The verdict resulted in an outpouring of support and sympathy for the 32 year old, but Newcastle have garnered fresh criticism for their response to the decision;
“We recognise that the task facing the tribunal was a difficult one, but we are dismayed by its decision.
“We will now take time to consider the judgement in full and consult with our legal team to understand the options available to us.”
The treatment of the former fan favourite is a symbol of all that is wrong at the once prestigious club. Newcastle have a large stadium, a large fan base, and money to spend.
While Leicester are marching towards the title, and clubs such as Bournemouth and Watford are performing admirably, Newcastle are going in the opposite direction.
So why are they struggling?
The club has lost its values, and its soul, and it appears that the only way to stop the rot is for Mike Ashley to step away from the club. In truth, Newcastle would be deemed a whole lot worse if it weren’t for Aston Villa’s embarrassing efforts this season.
A complete overhaul is required if the Magpies are to turn their fortunes around. Annual relegation battles are simply unacceptable for a club of Newcastle’s history and stature.
How Newcastle could now do with a passionate, committed footballer like Jonas for the important battle ahead.
Unfortunately, this case has illustrated all that is amiss at the once great club.
Gutierrez is now owed £2 million by the club, but in truth he deserves a whole lot more, as do the fans.
by David Smith