Newcastle star reveals he needed injections throughout Championship season to play through pain barrier
Matt Ritchie was easily the most used Newcastle player in the attacking half of the pitch in the Championship winning season.
Starting 40 and coming on as a sub in another two, only defenders Dummett and Lascelles started marginally more matches.
Along with Dwight Gayle the winger was easily one of the two most productive as well, scoring 12 goals and also getting seven assists.
Basically, a record that shows on average he either scored or made a goal every other game.
Now Matt Ritchie has revealed that he did all this despite playing through the pain barrier all season. The winger needing to have painkilling injections throughout the campaign due to a hernia problem.
Asked if he had put Newcastle United before Scotland, Ritchie says that it was simply a necessity in managing his hernia problem throughout last season, in an effort not to break down.
Called up for this Scotland squad in March under new boss Alex McLeish, it is the first one where he has featured since November 2016.
It is remarkable really just what his contribution was last season and very much mirrors Jamaal Lascelles, who also had a hernia problem that plagued him last season, just like Matt Ritchie he had a long-awaited operation to sort it in the summer, in preparation for this Premier League campaign.
Lascelles revealed at the end of last season just how bad the problem had been and interesting that Matt Ritchie has kept it quiet until now, just how badly affected he was as his goals and assists made him arguably player of the season.
This time he hasn’t had quite the same impact when stepping up to the Premier League with two goals and five assists but certainly his form has improved significantly in recent times. Having hit the woodwork on a number of occasions this season, his goals against Man Utd and Southampton have played a major part in consecutive home wins.
Matt Ritchie has also paid tribute to Rafa Benitez and how he has improved him as a player, plus a big attraction for the player when moving to Tyneside was playing in front of 52,000 every other week.
Matt Ritchie talking to the Scotsman:
“I had been playing [at Newcastle] for probably around three or four months really struggling and I tailored my training. It was sore but I’m fully fit now, that’s in the past and hopefully the future can be more successful.
“I didn’t feel completely forgotten [by Scotland] as I had to pull out through injury.
“I was playing week in, week out for my club and doing well. It was more down to the fact I was playing with injections for most of last season to get through the pain barrier.
“It was about managing my body. At the time it was about promotion to the Premier League and whether I risked coming away [with Scotland] and getting injured.
“I made the decision to get treatment back at Newcastle and used the time to get ready for the next game.
“That wasn’t me choosing Newcastle over Scotland. It was about managing my body and not wanting to break down. As soon as the season finished I went straight in for the hernia operation. Now I feel all good.
“A much needed result [recently] and great to beat Man United. It certainly lifted spirits at Newcastle.
“It has been a real learning curve for me personally. His [Rafa Benitez’] record speaks for itself.
“The attention to detail we get given is incredible. He has certainly improved me as a player. I feel like I have developed under him.
“I really enjoyed playing the No.10 role for the first time when we played Antwerp. Most of the time I have been playing out wide and really enjoy it. I will play anywhere on the pitch but my position is a wide man, either left or right. The last few years I have played more on the right and enjoyed it.
“Newcastle is a massive club and playing in front of 52,000 week in week out, it’s fantastic. The fans have been fantastic with us since day one. I started quite well and that always helps with a few goals. It’s been a real successful period in my career.
“Yes, it’s a risk to leave Bournemouth because together we had a fantastic group of players, staff – a real family club and a great feeling about the place.
“To leave Bournemouth where I only live half an hour down the road, it was a tough decision but I wanted to test myself and play in front of a big crowd and I have no regrets. I’m really enjoying it and hopefully we can get safe and build on that.”
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