Matt Ritchie's '˜busy and annoying', but he's so important to Rafa Benitez's Newcastle
Busy, annoying. Those are the two words that Matt Ritchie feels his team-mates would use to describe him.
Ritchie has been busy since joining Newcastle United from Bournemouth a couple of years ago.
First came promotion, as champions, and then came a 10th-placed finish in the Premier League.
The winger never lets up on the field.
And it’s not hard to see why clubs, including Bournemouth, Middlesbrough and Stoke City, are interested in signing him this summer.
But would Rafa Benitez even consider selling him?
Ritchie’s been an influential figure, on and off the pitch, since he joined from Bournemouth. The 28-year-old admits he “niggles” away at his team-mates day in, day out on the training pitch. That’s why he believes they would describe him as “annoying”.
Asked how he team-mates would describe him, Ritchie said: “Busy, annoying. No, I get on with everyone. I’ve got good relationships with a lot of lads.
“A lot of them are love-hate relationships, especially when we’re on the training pitches. I’m always bickering with someone. It’s not often I go a day without a little niggle with someone, but that’s me. I enjoy it.
“I enjoy that little bit of, not confrontation, but the sort of aggression, that will to win on the training pitch. I think that probably shows in the games as well.
“Jamaal (Lascelles) is another one who likes to have a bicker and Dwighty (Gayle) is the same, so between the three of us, we can create a winning vibe. Because it’s about winning, we want to win.
“When we play small games and things like that in training, it’s about winning and getting the best out of each other. It’s a good thing to have at times, I think.”
The quotes were from a revealing interview with the club’s matchday programme.
I got a revealing glimpse into Ritchie’s approach to his job during the club’s training camp in Spain, in March.
Long before his team-mates took to the training pitch, Ritchie himself was on the field kicking a ball around. And he was still out there at the end of every session. He just didn’t stop. He’s a bundle of energy, and he trains like he plays.
Ritchie’s had ups and downs over the past couple of seasons, but the one consistent has been his workrate. He worked his way through dips in form, and it was Ritchie, having come through a tough few months, that scored the winning goal against Arsenal which secured Newcastle’s Premier League status in April.
Ritchie, talented. tireless and tenacious, has embodied Benitez’s United up to now.
However, Benitez – who wants to re-sign Kenedy from Chelsea – can be ruthless.
He’s prepared to sell a player at the top of his valuation – if he feels the sale would help him improve his squad.
For me, Ritchie still has a lot to offer this club.