Matt Ritchie makes decision to prioritise spending more time with family
Matt Ritchie has been a key figure for Newcastle United over these past three and a half years.
Pretty much an ever present throughout the promotion season and then in the next campaigns as Rafa Benitez retained Premier League status with something to spare.
Ritchie always willing to play wherever he was asked, appearing on both wings and then Rafa turning him into a very decent left wing-back.
His willingness to help out and be one of the few first team players to regularly turn out in cup games eventually backfired, injured against Leicester in the League Cup defeat at the end of August. Not seen since and ahead of the win over Bournemouth, Steve Bruce revealed that Matt Ritchie had suffered another setback on his ankle injury.
Not sure when we will see him on the pitch again but whenever that is, it appears now to be certain to be before he ever turns out for Scotland again.
The last 18 months have seen Matt Ritchie ask not to be considered for international duty, reported by the media as being because he wanted to concentrate on making sure he was 100% for Newcastle United.
Now in this international break it has been revealed that former Newcastle United assistant manager Steve Clarke has approached the Newcastle winger/wing-back.
The recently appointed (May 2019) Scotland manager wanted to know about Ritchie’s future availability.
The Mail reporting that the Newcastle star has told Clarke that he has now retired from international football for good.
What they also reveal is that Matt Ritchie’s family are still living in Hampshire, rather than the north east, with international breaks one of the rare times during the season when the player gets to spend consecutive days with them. They say that Ritchie has made that final decision to make his family time the priority moving forward, as well as more time to concentrate on his club football.
Ritchie only made his debut for Scotland in 2015 and has made 13 starts and three sub appearances.
His last competitive start was in a 3-0 defeat to Slovakia in a World Cup qualifier on 11 October 2016, then his last competitive appearance as a sub when Scotland won 3-0 in Lithuania on 1 September 2017. Though he did appear in the 1-0 friendly defeat to Costa Rica on 23 March 2018.
The last three transfer windows have all seen reports that Matt Ritchie could be leaving Newcastle for a club down south, in order to spend more time with family and this latest news on Scotland appears to back those claims up.
Rafa Benitez was reported to have refused to sanction Ritchie’s departure as he didn’t believe he would be properly backed to bring in a similar quality replacement.
Having turned 30 and with only 19 months left on his contract (Isaac Hayden is in a similar position, only 19 months left on Newcastle deal and his family also remaining down south) and no sign of any new deal, maybe we are nearing the end of Ritchie’s time at Newcastle.
Family trumps everything else and if a suitable offer did come in, then maybe it would suit both the player and Mike Ashley to do a deal.
For the first time as well in his Newcastle career, an automatic place in the team once fit, may not be the case. That could also play a part in any decision as Jetro Willems has been doing well in that wide left position.
If you would like to feature on The Mag, submit your article to [email protected]