Matt Ritchie reveals how this tactical switch at Newcastle United has made him a better player

Matt Ritchie believes he’s an even more attacking player – after being moved into Newcastle United’s defence.

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 5:00 am
Matt Ritchie.

The winger has been fielded as a left wing-back for much of the campaign.

Rafa Benitez switched to a five-man defence earlier this season – and Ritchie had to “learn on the job”.

The 29-year-old, however, is enjoying the new position.

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Ritchie feels that he’s getting into even more dangerous positions in the final third of the pitch.

“I’ve got to be honest, I’m loving it,” said Ritchie, who is preparing for Saturday’s Premier League home game against Everton.

“I feel like I get in better areas higher up the pitch with the ball.

“I’d say that one of my biggest strengths is my delivery, and I get in positions now to cross the ball.”

Ritchie has had to learn the hard way.

“I feel like, defensively, I had to learn on the job a little bit,” he said.

“I made a few mistakes, small errors, which you get punished for in this league.

“I didn’t get tight enough at Watford. I came away from that game learning.

“I learnt on the job. The Man City game gave me great confidence defensively.

“I came away from those games learning and becoming a better player.

“I’ve certainly really enjoyed playing left wing-back. The way we play, the lads in the middle are spraying the ball out wide.

“I think we’ve worked a lot on switching the play, and the wing-backs in this system are so important.”

Ritchie has powerful striker Salomon Rondon to aim at when he gets to the final third of the pitch.

The Scotland international has four Premier League assists to his name so far this season.

On having Rondon, signed on loan from West Bromwich Albion last summer, leading the line, Ritchie said: “It’s lovely.

“It’s one of those things. You play with players at different clubs and different systems, but Ronny suits down to the ground.

“I know that when I get the ball, that if I hit a good area, Ronny, more often than not, will be there.

“Whether he wins the first ball or second ball, he’s always a problem.

“It’s really enjoyable. I feel like I enjoy being on the ball, having the ball, and I feel like I’m getting more touches than I did when I was playing a little higher up the pitch.

“As I’ve said before, as long as I’m playing, I’ll be happy. I’ll play anywhere.”

Meanwhile, Jamie Sterry has spoken after finally making his second debut for loan clu Crewe Alexandra.

The United defender re-signed for the League Two club on loan in January, but only made his first appearance in last weekend’s 2-0 home defeat to Northampton Town.

The 23-year-old said: “You do get frustrated, but it’s nice to see the team keep winning.

“The team had been doing well, and I understood I had to wait for my chance.

“I’ve been a good professional, I think. I’ve trained well every day.

“It’s been tough, but it’s about learning as well. It’s all about your mental strength, which is one of the hardest things to work on and a big part of the game.

“When you’re not playing, you still have to focus, so you’re always going to learn as long as you keep going.”