Wednesday night saw Newcastle United fans asking, where is Matt Ritchie?
Scotland had been hit by a number of players withdrawing from their latest squad, with Ritchie’s Newcastle teammate Grant Hanley one of those who headed back to their club for treatment.
Only 9,158 turned up at Easter Road to see a poor 1-1 draw with Canada but for Newcastle supporters the total absence of Matt Ritchie was more of a concern.
National boss Gordon Strachan made a point of saying he was resting a number of Celtic players who had played only on the previous Sunday before linking up with the national squad – but he made no reference to the absence of the Newcastle winger.
Naming 21 players, including 10 subs, there was no sign of the United winger even on the bench.
With a spate of recent injuries, some Newcastle fans will be understandably worried that Ritchie may have been added to them, especially as the tendency in these games is for the fit members of the squad to be all included on the bench (England named 13 subs against Germany last night).
Hopefully this is just a piece of natural paranoia with a number of other injuries making Newcastle fans jumpy.
Scotland play their crucial World Cup qualifier on Sunday against Slovenia and so quite probable Matt Ritchie is simply being kept for that, though that doesn’t quite explain why he wasn’t even sitting on the bench against Canada.
It would be a big loss to Newcastle if anything was up with the former Bournemouth winger, he was man of the match at Birmingham on Saturday and is second top scorer with nine Championship goals and is the main source of assists along with Jonjo Shelvey.
In these final eight matches, Newcastle need the likes of Shelvey, Ritchie, Hayden and Gayle all back to their best, as they have been the foundation for the vast majority of NUFC’s positive play this season.
Wigan up next in nine days time and fingers crossed everything is ok with Ritchie…and the rest.
— Scottish FA (@ScottishFA) March 22, 2017