Matt Ritchie has fired a strong message to Newcastle United’s critics - and warned them to stop comparing the current side to their predecessors.
Rafa Benitez’s side essentially secured Premier League survival for another season thanks to a 1-0 win at Leicester City on Friday evening.
But while his side have enjoyed a fine start to 2019 and have surged up the table, Ritchie believes their accomplishments are still being belittled in some quarters.
Indeed, the winger turned wing-back believes comparisons with Kevin Keegan’s entertainers and other memorable Newcastle teams of the past should be avoided - and instead critics should focus on the achievements of Benitez’s current crop.
“I’m not sure we get the credit we deserve,” said Ritchie.
“I think everyone involved at this club deserves credit.
“I understand the glory days of Keegan and Robson, I understand that everyone keeps looking back.
“I’m not saying that we don’t aspire to that, obviously we do.
“We want to be the best players and the best group we can possibly be.
“The manager will always say he wants to strengthen and the players are the same, we want to be competing for our places and we understand that’s football.
“You want to finish as high as you possibly can, individually and as a team.
“But you can’t take anything for granted in the Premier League. From the top six down, anyone can be 12th or tenth or eighth or 18th.
“It’s the bounce of the ball here or there. We didn’t win a game for the first ten games of the season and everyone wrote us off.
“Everyone had us relegated, no chance, but now, all of a sudden, we look like a good side.”
While Ritchie understands the desire to see Newcastle avoid a relegation fight year-on-year, he believes it is ‘naive’ to think that the Tynesiders won’t be faced with the threat of the drop.
And the former Bournemouth man believes that even splashing the cash in the summer window would not guarantee survival next season - as he believes as many as fourteen teams could be at risk of finishing in the bottom three, regardless of the millions they may spend.
“People talk about not wanting to be in this position again, but that’s naïve when you’re talking about the Premier League,” added Ritchie.
“It’s a frustrating one. I understand, and as players you want to achieve great things, but you have to be realistic.
“Other than the top six, every team can be in the relegation mix. Everton spent £100m last season, but with ten games to go, they were still in trouble.
“From the top six down, anyone can be in a relegation battle, anyone.
“Whether they get a bad start or a bad run, you have to be realistic. The top six or seven might have that bit more, but the rest of the league is so close.
“This year, there’s a little bit more of a gap, but so many clubs can end up in trouble.
“We’re seen as not spending money, but spending money is no guarantee. We’re competing.
“We only came up a couple of years ago, and last season we retained our Premier League status. Hopefully, this season, if we continue to play like we did at Leicester, we can get a few more points and finish close to where we did last season.”