Matt Ritchie: Why I left home comforts behind to sign for Rafa Benitez at Newcastle

Newcastle Uniteds new boy Matt Ritchie
Newcastle Uniteds new boy Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie has left his home comforts behind on the South Coast.

But the Newcastle United winger is already feeling settled in the North East.

I first met Rafa when I came up, and there’s an aura about him, for sure. It’s flattering when someone like that in football watches you.

Matt Ritchie

Ritchie joined the club last week in a £10million deal.

The 26-year-old was quickly sold on a move to Newcastle from Bournemouth, where he had spent previous three and a half seasons.

And Gosport-born Ritchie – who started his career at Portsmouth – wasn’t put off by the move north, despite having lived in Hampshire all his life.

“For me, obviously it’s a bit different (to previous moves) in the fact that I’ve moved up here,” said the Scotland international.

“I’ve always been lucky in my career in that I’ve always lived in the same house since I was 17 – since Portsmouth. I travelled to Swindon, and I’ve been on loan a few times, Notts County for instance, but that was only a few miles.

“So I’ve always been lucky, I’ve lived at home as most people like to do.

“But as a footballer you’ve got to be willing to uproot your family, and my wife’s supported me.

“She was all for the move as well, and I’m just delighted to be up here, delighted to be training and getting started. I can’t wait for the season to start.”

Ritchie has enjoyed his first week’s training under Rafa Benitez.

“I first met Rafa when I came up, and there’s an aura about him, for sure,” he said.

“He’s a manager who’s won nearly everything in football. He’s got an aura around him and I’m really looking forward to working with him.

“I’m sure that he’s got different coaching methods to what I’m used to so I’m sure I can learn.

“It’s flattering, for sure, when someone like that in football watches you. He’s obviously seen you play, he must have watched me in games.

“So yeah, it’s flattering to know that someone with his knowledge in football rates you.

“(Newcastle) has always been a football club that stands out as a top English football club.

“When I heard the interest, especially the manager involved and the owner backing him in the way, it’s an opportunity I didn’t want to turn down and let pass me by.”

Ritchie knows the Championship well from his time at Bournemouth, and he feels Benitez’s squad will have the right balance by the time the new campaign kicks off on August 5.

“I think he’s got a plan, he knows what he wants and I agree with his plan.

“I think you need a mixture of quality, hard work and togetherness in the Championship. You need a bit of everything, and I think that’s what the gaffer’s building here, in training, with what I’ve seen so far.

“We’ve already got all of that, so hopefully we can have a real successful season.”

Ritchie, in the Bournemouth team that beat Newcastle 3-1 in March in what proved to be Steve McClaren’s last game in charge, has been surprised by the positivity at the club given that it was relegated two months ago.

“I think when you get relegated, it’s important that the next season you come back in and that’s wiped from the memory, because you have to be positive,” he said.

“If you think positively, positive things will happen.

“The group seems very positive for the start of the season, very determined and everyone certainly knows what’s expected of us.

“So we’ll be doing all we can to make sure that’s going to happen.”