Matt Ritchie has made an outstanding start at Newcastle United.
After surprisingly agreeing to step down from the Premier League after recognising the future potential at St James Park, the former Bournemouth winger has been United’s best and most dangerous player.
However, at international level things are bit more of a struggle at the moment.
Drawn in the same group as England was always going to be interesting but before the two countries meet in November, Scotland were desperate to pick up as many points as possible.
Only drawing to Lithuania who are ranked over 70 places lower than Scotland, sparked a bit of a backlash against Gordon Strachan’s management.
Fellow Newcastle player Grant Hanley got a lot of stick after that match, blamed for the goal and many pundits, especially Willie Miller, bemoaning the lack of options at centre of defence. Meanwhile, Matt Ritchie was subbed in that latest game before a last minute goal (thanks in part to a Hanley flick-on from a long throw) rescued a point.
Matt Ritchie was voted Scotland’s International Player of the Year last season and has described Saturday’s draw as a ‘little bump’ in the bigger picture, with Slovakia away next up tonight.
The United winger says that ‘You don’t ever qualify for a World Cup easily’ and seen as it was 1998 when they last qualified, the Scots will know that better than most.
Matt Ritchie states that ‘Football doesn’t always go the way you want it to’ and whether you are a Scotland or Newcastle fan, or bit of both, you will appreciate that sentiment.
Whatever happens in this international break, all Newcastle supporters hope is that all of our key players, particularly Matt Ritchie, return in the right state of mind and free of injury.
Interesting to see how Rafa Benitez uses his large squad for his starting line-up against Brentford and whether he will choose to rely maybe a little bit more on a few players who haven’t had international commitments to contend with.
“You don’t ever qualify for a World Cup easily…
“You don’t do it by winning every game in the campaign, it just doesn’t work out that way. This is a tough group and we came across a little bump against Lithuania.
“Now we want to get back to winning ways. It’s a long campaign and it isn’t all about Saturday’s game or Tuesday night’s game. But we want to pick up as many points as possible and we go into the game against Slovakia planning for a victory and expecting one as well.
“Yes, we were the favourites and expected to win against Lithuania.
“So it was obviously a disappointing result, because we set out to get all three points, but football doesn’t always go the way you want it to.
“Even though we’re disappointed right now with the result on Saturday, we may look back on it in a couple of months’ time and regard it as a good point.”