JONAS Gutierrez is determined to finally get his season up and running – and help Newcastle United’s Premier League charge, writes Miles Starforth.
The winger has played just 63 minutes of football this season.
Gutierrez suffered a hamstring injury in the club’s season-opening defeat to Manchester City, and also had a spell of leave in his native Argentina.
But the 30-year-old is now fit and available, and looking to add to his 195 Newcastle appearances.
Gutierrez played 90 minutes for United’s Under-21 side last week.
The Argentina international scored and had a hand in Newcastle’s other three goals in 4-1 home win over Norwich City on Friday afternoon.
And Gutierrez is now waiting for his next first-team opportunity at the club, which is sixth in the table ahead of the Boxing Day home game against Stoke City.
“I feel fit,” Gutierrez said.
“The most important thing for me now is to train hard and to wait. I try to be 100 per cent to fight for a place.”
Gutierrez – who joined United from Real Mallorca in the summer of 2008 – was keen to play the full 90 minutes against Norwich along with long-serving defender Steven Taylor.
And the midfielder put in an energetic performance as Newcastle came from behind to win convincingly at Whitley Park.
“The goal wasn’t important,” he said. “It was important to play the 90 minutes.
“I haven’t been involved for a long time, so it’s good to be playing again.
“I know it’s not the same as a first-team game, but it’s always important to play 90 minutes.
“It’s different – the level is not the same – but it helps your fitness.”
Gutierrez’s last United appearance came off the bench in the club’s win at Cardiff City in early October.
Later that month he was allowed to return to Argentina for personal reasons by Newcastle manager Alan Pardew.
Gutierrez has been a near-ever present in the Premier League in the last three seasons.
Meanwhile, Davide Santon is confident Newcastle United have the strength in depth to go the distance in the Premier League.
Alan Pardew’s side are sixth in the division after winning six of their last eight games.
And there are hopes the team can again qualify for European football.
United’s form this term is in contrast to that last season when the club fought to stay in the top flight.
Newcastle made just one senior signing in the summer – Loic Remy joined on loan from Queens Park Rangers – and there were fears the club’s squad would again be found wanting.
However, United – who face Stoke City at home on Boxing Day – have been relatively untroubled by injuries.
And the impact substitutes Shola Ameobi and Hatem Ben Arfa made off the bench in Saturday’s 3-0 win over Crystal Palace underlined the options available to manager Pardew.
Ameobi won the late penalty converted by Ben Arfa, who hasn’t started a game since late October.
Defender Santon is himself being pushed hard by Massadio Haidara and Paul Dummett.
“It’s not just about the 11 players who start,” Santon said. “I think we have a very good bench.
“I’m happy for Ben Arfa. He came on, played well and scored. We have got fantastic substitutes. We’re in good shape now. We have good confidence. Everybody is together. That’s what makes us strong.”