By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
Form is temporary but class is permanent, as they say, and Jonas Gutierrez is now back to his best after admitting that he suffered a crisis of confidence earlier in the season.
Whether he's been asked to play on the wing, in central midfield or at left-back, the Argentine ace has been outstanding for Newcastle in recent weeks and is looking to take those performances into Sunday's derby against Sunderland.
By his own admission, Gutierrez has not reached his own high standards at times during the current campaign having been a beacon of consistency ever since his arrival from Real Mallorca in the summer of 2008.
However, he's been back on song over the last few weeks and was arguably the Magpies' best player against Fulham last weekend despite playing as an auxilary full-back for most of the game following Davide Santon's hamstring injury.
The 29-year-old was then a driving force for United against Benfica on Thursday night and, although his workrate has never been in question, his quality is now truly shining through once again.
"I know when I don't play in the way that I want," he told nufc.co.uk in a frank interview ahead of the Tyne-Wear derby. "I never make excuses: when I don't play well, I say that I haven't had a good game, just like I told you at the beginning of the season.
"But I think confidence is really, really important so I try to do my best to find the confidence again. Maybe I didn't have it from the beginning but that sometimes happens.
"The most important thing is I always try to work hard for the team. Sometimes you can do better and sometimes things don't go the way you want but I always do my best and work hard.
"I know that if you play at this level and you play for the national team and play many games in the Premier League over five years, it's for a reason. You have to think about that and you have to move forward to try and be better.
"I never stop thinking like that so when things are not the way I want or I think I can't do it, I try to think forward to the next game or the next training session to do it better and to improve."
Even when he was not firing on all cylinders, Gutierrez's versatilty has been vital to Alan Pardew throughout a long season which has not been kind to Newcastle in terms of injuries.
And the man from Buenos Aires insists he is happy to play anywhere for the benefit of the team.
"Of course, my position normally is left-wing but on Sunday I had to play left-back after ten minutes because we had bad news about Davide," he said. "I'm here to do my best for the team and to help.
"We've had many injuries from the start of the season so I've had to change my position a few times, but I just want to help the team."
Despite being born more than 7,000 miles away from the North-East of England, Gutierrez is now one of United's longest-serving players and so knows all about the importance of this weekend's game against Sunderland.
And this season, more than just local pride is at stake as both sides look to ease their Barclays Premier League relegation worries.
"It's a game that at the start of the season you look to see when we are going to play because it's the derby," he said.
"The fans know that it's the best game that you can play. You want to play in the derby: it's exciting and you want to be there.
"All points are important but we're not thinking that this is the final battle. We don't think like that. This is an important game but for us, it's a team that now we have behind us (in the table). We are playing at home so that gives us a responsibility to play well and to try to win the game."
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