Miles Starforth's China tour diary: Never change, Matt Ritchie

Practice makes perfect. And Newcastle United got their penalty practice in at the end of last night’s training session.

Tuesday, 16th July 2019, 12:20 pm
Matt Ritchie, second left, and Ben Dawson, second right.

The Premier League Asia Trophy, which kicks off in Nanjing tomorrow night with a game between the managerless club and Wolverhampton Wanderers, could be decided by spot kicks.

So coaches Ben Dawson and Neil Redfearn had the players taken them in the shadow of the 62,000-capacity Olympic Sports Centre, which will stage the first round of games.

Matty Longstaff converted his penalty with a cheeky effort. The 19-year-old, brother of Sean, already looks at ease in the first-team squad.

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And the last player off the pitch? As ever, it was Matt Ritchie. Some things never change.

Flight club

Better late than never. Manchester City finally boarded a flight to China yesterday ahead of the Premier League Asia Trophy.

The Premier League champions – who face West Ham United at Nanjing’s Olympic Sports Centre tomorrow night – had had two previous charter flights cancelled due to administrative problems.

Newcastle, thankfully, were on time, having caught a scheduled flight out of England.

The greatest

Bob Moncur is with Newcastle United in China.

The club’s Fairs Cup-winning captain is with the squad in his role as an ambassador. It’s Moncur’s first visit to China, though he visited Hong Kong with Newcastle in 1972. United were there to play Santos as part of a four-match Far East tour – and the world’s greatest player was in their line-up.

Pele, then 31, struck a 15-minute hat-trick as the Brazilian side came from behind to win 4-2. Tony Green and John Tudor were on target for Newcastle.

The World Cup winner left his mark on Moncur, who was marking him.

“We played against Santos and there was 40,000 people there,” said Moncur. “We were playing against Pele, and we’d been out for a few days. Don’t ask who got a hat-trick! He got me before I got him, let’s put it that way. I felt a bit unhappy with that, because it was the first minute – and I hadn’t done anything.”