Newcastle fans had their biggest lift of the summer when Matt Ritchie agreed to join United, just as Andros Townsend had deserted the relegated club.
The winger had been outstanding in Bournemouth’s promotion side of 2014/15 and showed in 2015/16 that he could take the step up to the Premier League in his stride.
Independent observers were stunned that Matt Ritchie had agreed to take the step down after just making it to the top tier.
However, the player says that he agreed to come to St James Park because the ambition was clearly there with Rafa Benitez to ‘turn it around’.
Arguably the player of the year for NUFC so far, Ritchie saying that he hopes that he can be in ‘at the start of a successful era’ for Newcastle United.
More immediately, the winger is looking forward to the ‘biggest game’ of his career, if selected.
Matt Ritchie is set to face England at Wembley on Friday, the dream of every Scottish international, even/especially those from the south coast of England.
No doubt with the mixed feelings many Newcastle fans feel towards England, a fair few won’t be too upset if Matt Ritchie (and to a lesser extent, Grant Hanley) has a great game on Friday night.
Qualifying through his father being from Edinburgh, I wonder if at least a small part of the attraction of life at Newcastle, was living closer to his spiritual homeland than he’d ever done before.
Matt Ritchie talking to The Mirror:
“I joined (Newcastle) because I knew the ambition was to turn it around. I hope I can be in at the start of a successful era and personally make an impact.
“My dad, who is from Edinburgh, used to say, ‘One day son, you’ll play for Scotland’. I had that from a very young age all the time.
“The manager (Gordon Strachan) called and said, ‘Are you Scottish? Do you feel Scottish?’ The answer was yes, yes. I’ve loved it ever since.
“I’ve been to Wembley before, for club games, but this will be the biggest game of my career – if, hopefully, I’m involved.
“You can make history in these games as a team. To qualify you need a bit of luck, a special moment — Ireland beat Germany at the Aviva Stadium. No one expected it.
“As long as we work hard and be the best we can be you can’t look around at neighbours. We have work ethic and quality in the group. A bit of everything.
“England have top, top Premier League footballers but we have quality too.
“We have good young talent. There is also hunger to achieve something. It will be a tough test but we’ll love it.”