NEWCASTLE United’s Jonas Gutierrez is ready for anything between now and the end of the season – after overcoming his toughest opponent yet.
Gutierrez made his first appearance since being given the all-clear after treatment for cancer last week.
The first game back was special, but now I am in the same position as the rest of the team and I have to fight for my place if I want to play.
The 31-year-old made an emotional return off the bench in the 1-0 home defeat to Manchester United.
And the winger – who yesterday accepted a donation from Steve Harper’s Oddballs boxer shirts firm on behalf of testicular cancer charity Ballboys – is hoping to feature against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday.
But Gutierrez isn’t expecting any special favours from head coach John Carver – as he wants to earn his place back in the team on merit.
“It was special, but then I know I have to be ready for the next game,” said Gutierrez.
“The first game back was special, but now I am in the same position as the rest of the team and I have to fight for my place if I want to play.
“Nobody is going to give you a place just because you have recovered from cancer. You’ve got to be strong and do the best that you can and do the best in every minute that you play.”
Gutierrez – who lost his trademark long hair during chemotherapy – is savouring every moment of his time on the pitch, having not known a few months ago if he would play again.
“Every moment on the pitch is special, because a few months ago I didn’t know if I was ever going to get back on the pitch,” he added.
“I wanted to but you never know what’s coming. Every minute I play I will enjoy it more than ever.
“It’s fantastic to be back and I want more.
“You always want more, and I want to play as much as I can for the rest of the season and I will fight for that.”
When Gutierrez was told he needed chemotherapy, his focus was recovery, not football.
“My target was recovery – nothing else,” said Gutierrez, who is now keen to raise awareness of testicular cancer.
“When the doctor told me I was healthy, then I started thinking ‘now, I want to get back on the pitch and do what I like’.
“But in that moment, I was just thinking of recovery. I was thinking day by day what I treatment I had to go through.
“To be healthy is the most important thing in life.
Gutierrez doesn’t intend to grow his hair back, but he will buy a new Spider-Man mask, having been famed for donning a super-hero mask when he scored.
“I don’t have one any more, but I think I might buy a new one,” he said.
Gutierrez quickly accepted the loss of his hair during chemotherapy after meeting fellow cancer patients in his native Argentina.
“At the beginning it was hard, but when you are with the different patients in the chemotherapy unit you see the girls and the women and they don’t care about your hair,” he said.
“I thought if they don’t care about their hair I won’t worry about mine.”
Meanwhile, former Newcastle goalkeeper Harper was back at the club’s training ground yesterday to present the Ballboys charity with a £2,500 cheque.
Oddballs, set up by Harper, now at Hull City, and a group of friends last year, donate 10 per cent of the sale price of every pair to the charity.
Harper said: “This cheque presentation to the Ballboys charity will be the first of many, and is our way of supporting Jonas, Ballboys and many men across the country in their fight against testicular cancer,” said Harper.
“We launched Oddballs last year, and we have had support across the length and breadth of the country.”
Rosie Colfer, Ballboys’ director of operations, said: “The support of Oddballs will educate men across the country as the brand grows in profile.”