Newcastle United's season has again become one of drifting aimlessly, with more than two months of the campaign still to go.
They are out of both cup competitions and floating in mid-table with no prospect of qualifying for the Europa League and little danger of relegation despite last weekend’s insipid showing, when they were thrashed 5-0 at Manchester City.
There is, however, a sense of anticipation about Saturday’s game against Aston Villa thanks to the selection in the squad of Jonas Gutierrez.
The 31-year-old Argentine midfielder has not played since April, when he was on loan at Norwich City, and his return is remarkable.
After treatment for testicular cancer, he started training again in November, but there was no guarantee he would get back to the fitness or form necessary to play in the Premier League.
These have been a miserable few weeks for the Premier League, with fans disgracing themselves, a constant background stench of controversy and claims of conspiracy, and the ongoing sense of money meaning more than achievement, but this is a genuinely positive story, a popular and committed player fighting back from a horrible disease.
Only Villa fans, surely, would begrudge him scoring a goal in his return on Saturday afternoon.
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