Matt Ritchie reacts to Rafa Benitez’s decision to take him off – and Newcastle’s summer transfer dealings

Matt Ritchie clashes with Joe Bennett
Matt Ritchie clashes with Joe Bennett

Matt Ritchie says he understood Rafa Benitez’s decision to take him off against Cardiff City – even though he was frustrated not to be able to take a late penalty.

Ritchie, on a yellow card, was withdrawn after Isaac Hayden’s dismissal in Newcastle United’s goalless draw against Cardiff City on Saturday.

Kenedy steps up, only to see his penalty saved.

Kenedy steps up, only to see his penalty saved.

The winger had been switched to right-back, and Benitez didn’t want Ritchie to follow Hayden off the pitch.

Ritchie had been the team’s designated penalty-taker, and he watched from the bench as Kenedy had an injury-time spot kick saved.

“If I’d been on the pitch, I would’ve been taking it, but that’s how it goes,” said Ritchie, who had vented his frustration on the bench after being withdrawn against Tottenham Hotspur the previous weekend.

“I was obviously on a booking, and I had to play right-back, so the manager was probably hoping I didn’t get sent off. He made the decision to take me off, which I understand. It was frustrating to see the penalty saved, but sometimes that’s just the way things go.”

I was obviously on a booking, and I had to play right-back, so the manager was probably hoping I didn’t get sent off. He made the decision to take me off, which I understand.

Matt Ritchie

Ritchie had felt that a point would have been a good result before the penalty given that United hadn’t been anywhere near their best at the Cardiff City Stadium and had had gone down to 10 men in the 66th minute.

“I was sitting on the bench with five minutes to go thinking ‘you know what, it’s the Premier League, maybe a point away from home isn’t so bad’,” said the Scotland international.

“It wasn’t a fantastic performance, but a point away from home is not to be sniffed at, especially with the circumstances the way they were.

“It was the first home game for Cardiff, so it was always going to be a difficult tie. We’re obviously not delighted because of the way the game ended, but we got a point and it could have been worse.

“The positive is that we take the point, and we’ll try to build on it.

“It wasn’t a fantastic performance, but we managed to stay in the game and hang in at 0-0, and then we got a chance at the end, but it wasn’t to be. We’ll try to stay positive and move on to the next one.”

Ritchie feels that Newcastle, at least, have something to build on ahead of a tough run of Premier League games, starting with Sunday’s home fixture against Chelsea.

“I think we looked solid, although I also think we looked solid against Spurs too,” said Ritchie.

“We conceded two goals, but I don’t think that was through really bad defending, I think it was through good play from Tottenham.

“We’ve got a good solid base, as we had last season. Now, we just have to keep trying to improve and get better week by week.

“The new players will learn the system and how we want to play, and we’re only going to get better.

The past few months have been dominated by the transfer window and Benitez’s unhappiness with the funds available to him to strengthen the club’s squad.

Ritchie, however, doesn’t believe events off the pitch will have an impact on the dressing room.

“The transfer situation has no impact at all now, because the window is closed,” said Ritchie. “It’s the same as at any football club – the manager wants to strengthen the squad. There’s competition for places right through the squad anyway. The manager wanted to add a few more, and he’s been able to bring some good players in.

“I feel like we’ve got a really good squad now. We’re as strong, if not stronger than last season, so the players know there’s competition for places and the standard of performances has to be high.”