Rafa Benitez reveals Matt Ritchie’s reaction to being told he was wanted at Newcastle

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

Rafa Benitez says Matt Ritchie didn’t have to be asked twice to join Newcastle United.

The tenacious winger took his goal tally for the season to 14 with the club’s winner in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic at St James’s Park.

For a manager, you can believe in him knowing he will always do his best. He’s always so positive and is an example for the others.

Rafa Benitez

Ritchie reacted first when his initial shot struck the post.

The second-half goal saw the Championship leaders stretch their lead over third-placed Huddersfield Town to 10 points ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against Burton Albion.

Ritchie joined the club from Premier League club Bournemouth in a £12million deal last summer.

And United manager Benitez didn’t have to persuade Ritchie to swap the top flight for a season in English football’s second tier.

“Out of all the players we were talking about, he was the most clear that he wanted to come here,” said Benitez.

“For him, Newcastle was a massive club in a massive city, and he was talking about the fans and the stadium. From day one, he was very excited about the move. Clearly, he wanted to come.”

Benitez believes that Ritchie’s commitment and character rubs off on his team-mates.

“That passion can be seen in every game,” said Benitez.

“You can see he’s running all the time. Sometimes, we tell him to stop, because he’s putting so much effort into it. I prefer this kind of player, the one you have to ask to back off rather than work harder.

“He’s an example to his team mates with his attitude and ability.”

On his performance against Wigan, Benitez added: “I don’t like to talk too much about individuals, and (it) was very much a team effort.

“He’s someone who puts a lot of work into every game. He’s always a threat and a problem for other teams. I’m really pleased with his character, because it’s fundamental to the way we want to play.

“When you play these kind of games under pressure you’re looking for that kind of player.”

Asked if Ritchie would do well for Newcastle in the Premier League, Benitez added: “The fans here love this kind of player. For a manager, you can believe in him knowing he will always do his best. He’s always so positive and is an example for the others.”