WHEN Newcastle United were enduring what was arguably their nadir of last season on a cold Boxing Day afternoon at the JJB Stadium, Jonás Gutiérrez was a Real Mallorca player enjoying his winter break, writes Stuart Rayner.
Although he was still more than half a year away from joining the Magpies, the Argentinian winger is fully aware of what happened against Wigan Athletic but thinks it will have no bearing when United return today.
Newcastle put in an abysmal display in Greater Manchester, and the writing seemed to be on the wall for Sam Allardyce. With owner Mike Ashley sitting uncomfortably in the away end, he was booed during a limp 1-0 defeat and was sacked 12 days later.
It was the third successive season Newcastle had lost at the Latics and although Gutiérrez clearly knows his history, he does not think it will affect a visiting team infused with confidence.
“I know what happened at Wigan last year but this is a new match and a new chance,” he said. “It is very important we win. Confidence is getting better all the time and another win will keep us going in the right direction.” Newcastle are unbeaten in their last six games, winning the previous two, which in this Premier League season qualifies as almost robotic consistency. Gutiérrez is quick to credit manager Joe Kinnear.
“He has done a great job so far and when you win it always makes you feel better,” he said.
Mark Viduka made his longest appearance of the season in Sunday’s 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur, his exquisite backheel setting up Damien Duff’s winner. Gutiérrez says the ex-Middlesbrough striker is so good he could be South American!
“It is great playing alongside him,” said the winger. “He has done very well when he has come on as a sub in the last few matches because it is difficult when you are not starting. Against Spurs he had a very good match and he is very clever with his feet. On the training ground he does it all the time.
“He has the footwork of a South American and his technique is great.”