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Opinion

Matt Ritchie return is no coincidence for Newcastle United

6 months ago
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Matt Ritchie is renowned for his tireless work ethic and brilliant left foot.

He has characteristics that football fans look for in players representing their club, this has led to him becoming a fan-favourite at St James’ Park.

From the moment he arrived in the summer of 2016, Matt Ritchie has understood what it means to be a Newcastle player and in the past three games since his return to the side, he has once again demonstrated that.

The Scottish international has been utilised in a now familiar left wing back position; a position that he has become increasingly comfortable in since Rafa first used him there a few seasons ago. Newcastle have looked to have more balance as a team, which Matt Ritchie has contributed heavily to.

Now looking relatively resolute defensively, Newcastle are unbeaten in their last three games.

On the back of this, and the knowledge that he never stops running, many Newcastle fans prefer Ritchie at left wing back ahead of the alternatives.

Whilst Jamaal Lewis has shown glimpses of his potential since his summer move from Norwich, and will no doubt become our first choice left back in the future, he has on too many occasions this season looked defensively fragile.

When fighting relegation, you need consistency. Ritchie displays this in every game that he is involved in.

One thing that Newcastle fans particularly adore about Matt Ritchie, is his passion. Every week there are new videos on Twitter of Matt Ritchie celebrating just before we have scored; his jump before a goal now becoming iconic among supporters.

His commitment, joy and determination are infectious, and galvanise both his teammates and the fans.

Regardless of passion, you also need to deliver on the pitch. Shouting a lot and running around count for nothing if you are not having an effect on the game and the team is losing.

But since his return to the side, Matt Ritchie has backed up his desire, having a huge influence on our team. The Scot is one of the biggest reasons why we have experienced a drastic upturn in results starting with the 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur on 4 April.

In the Spurs game, Ritchie consistently delivered dangerous crosses that caused the visiting defence a number of problems. The most important of these was his delivery in the 85th minute that, following a Joelinton header, led to Joe Willock’s equaliser. Yes, we conceded two goals within four minutes in the first half, but Ritchie’s 85th minute delivery led to another point on the board.

The following week, at Burnley, Newcastle were poor in the first half and in large parts of the second. When Allan Saint Maximin joined the fray, he blew Burnley away, guaranteeing the points with a goal and an assist. But Ritchie’s influence to this victory was notable, as he formed one fifth of the resilient defence that consistently rebuffed the hosts’ late push for an equaliser, standing firm against their aerial bombardment.

Ritchie’s most productive display of late came in our 3-2 win against West Ham yesterday. Matt Ritchie helped create two of the three goals against the Hammers, one of which being a match-winning delivery from which Joe Willock scored.

Despite a poor performance from the team in the second-half, where we looked to have thrown away three points against 10 men, Ritchie and Willock stepped up and dragged Newcastle across the line.

Now, defensively we have still not kept a clean sheet since Ritchie has returned to the side, and this could be used as an argument against the Scot’s return having a solely positive impact.

But surely his industrious workrate, driving force, and attacking returns highlight his value to the team?

When Newcastle fans see Ritchie’s name on the team sheet, they know that they are going to get consistency.

Yes, there are games when he may contribute very little, but his performances never seem to drop below a 7/10. He is a consistent performer and a hard worker; you need this in a relegation fight.

Whilst Allan Saint-Maximin, Miguel Almiron and Callum Wilson are the key difference makers, they still need consistent performers around them to allow them to thrive.

Matt Ritchie does exactly that, whilst often chipping in with his own contributions too, as displayed in the past three weeks.

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