Now before anyone bites my head off by saying that they are completely different players, let me explain my point.
Before Kevin Nolan signed for Newcastle he was one of my favourite non-Newcastle players.
Don’t get me wrong, obviously the likes of Drogba, Torres and Ronaldo would have been top of anyone’s list of players you’d want in your team during that era (Torres was still scoring goals for fun with Liverpool then, not missing open goals for no fun at Chelsea).
However, there was something about Nolan that always made me like him. His workmanlike style and ability to pop up in the right place at the right time to score vital goals was admirable. In short, he was my favourite player that we could realistically sign.
January 2009, we sign him.
What’s the relevance?
Yes, I loved watching Aguero, Mahrez and Payet this season just gone. I have to ask how Mahrez is getting picked up for £400k in France whilst we’re paying multi millions for Thauvin and Cabella. My point though, once again I had a favourite non-Newcastle player outside of the obvious. That man was Matt Ritchie.
Anyone remember that wonder goal against our mates on the Wear last September? If you don’t, look it up. For me it was goal of the season, although Alli’s was very special as well.
I was going to write an article in January making a case for sacking McClaren and registering a cheeky bid for Eddie Howe. I felt the stature of our club may tempt him and the second part of the article was going to make an argument for getting him to bring Ritchie with him. That’s how highly I felt of him back then.
As things panned ou,t we acted too slowly and got relegated. However, we’ve got an even more prestigious manager than I could have ever dreamed of back in January and managed to lure Ritchie to the Championship. So why am I suggesting he could be the new Nolan?
I know he’s a completely different player to Nolan but I think he’ll bring the same qualities. Nolan’s presence was emphatic in that ‘title’ winning season. His goals, assists and work rate as well as character and heart, made him a true hero both that season and the next. It’s hard to believe he only played two and a half seasons in black and white. In such a short time he gave so much.
For me he is the only modern day Newcastle legend, post-Shay Given. Although I would make arguments for the likes of Barton and Jonas, whilst Steve Harper, Steven Taylor and Shola Ameobi deserve mentions for length of service too.
Matt Ritchie will give us goals and assists in abundance this season. That much should be certain. I think the other important thing he’ll give us is that character both on the pitch and in the dressing room.
He’s been a joy to watch on the south coast, let’s hope he can transfer that passion and ability to the north east.
You can follow the author on Twitter @billymerlin