Jonas Gutierrez scored his first goal since winning his battle with cancer as Newcastle United beat West Ham United 2-0 to avoid relegation on an anxious final day of the Barclays Premier League season.
A run of one point from 10 matches had plunged the Tyneside club deep into the mire, but Moussa Sissoko’s header nine minutes into the second half put them on course for a first victory since the end of February as Hull City dropped into the Championship.
Jonas Gutierrez, who laid on the opening goal, then sealed it with a deflected strike five minutes from time in a fairytale end to a season to which he had returned after overcoming testicular cancer.
Newcastle head coach John Carver said it would be unthinkable to take his hometown club into the second tier and he was able to savour a victory, while former Newcastle manager Sam Allardyce has taken charge of West Ham for the final time with the club confirming he will not be offered a new deal.
Newcastle’s leading scorer Papiss Cisse made his first start since early March, while Mike Williamson and Vurnon Anita were also recalled as Ayoze Perez, Ryan Taylor and Remy Cabella were dropped to the bench.
Allardyce made two changes to his starting line-up, with former Newcastle captain Kevin Nolan and Reece Burke replacing the injured Mark Noble and James Collins.
Newcastle made an encouraging start and Emmanuel Riviere was presented with a great chance to put them in front inside a minute, but snatched at his shot from close range.
Enner Valencia appealed for a penalty when he went down in the area moments later, but Williamson did not appear to make any contact and referee Martin Atkinson waved play on.
Riviere acrobatically volleyed into the side-netting and Daryl Janmaat dragged a strike wide of the far post as Newcastle attempted to ease the tension.
Newcastle’s hearts were in their mouths when Stewart Downing raced into the penalty area 23 minutes in, but Tim Krul denied the winger, and the home supporters became increasingly edgy as their side failed to open the scoring in a frantic first half, with the match at Hull still on a knife edge.
Riviere had another golden opportunity to make himself a hero five minutes into the second half, but was unable to make contact with Janmaat’s cross from around six yards out.
St James’ Park erupted just four minutes later, though, when Sissoko met Gutierrez’s fine cross from the left with a downward header to put Newcastle in front.
Gutierrez then raised the roof by unleashing a strike that deflected beyond Adrian and celebrated in style as Newcastle ended the season on a high note.
Also before the game we had the surprise of Mike Ashley giving his 1st media interview, speaking about his plans for the future at St. James’ Park and his determination to bring success back to the Club.
When asked where the blame for United’s poor season rests, Ashley simply replied: “My door.
“I didn’t envisage us being in this position at Christmas. Obviously, after the last couple of weeks I’m still a little bit shocked at where we find ourselves today.
“(But) I will continue the policy of investing in the football club.
“We have got the club on a very sound financial footing, so we are able to spend and punch above our weight thanks to the current financial situation the club finds itself in.
“We may have the cart, financially, but we now need to bolt the horse on, and we are going to.”
When quizzed about his intentions for the future, Ashley said: “To definitely win something and, by the way, I won’t be selling (the Club) until I do.
“(The club is not for sale) at any price. And when I say ‘win something’, if we ever get into a position of being in a Champions League place, that also counts as winning something.
“From this day forward we will be making our own luck.”