Newcastle's Rafa Benitez reacts to news of Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie accolade

Jamaal Lascelles & Rafa Benitez
Jamaal Lascelles & Rafa Benitez
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Newcastle United duo Jamaal Lascelles and Matt Ritchie are the joint winners of the North East Football Writers Association's player of the year award.

And manager Rafa Benitez has praised the impact of duo, who played integral parts in the Magpies' promotion back to the Premier League last season.

Matt Ritchie

Matt Ritchie

"I think that both played really well for us," said the manager.

"It was a great season last season and this year they have started really well. I am not surprised you have given them that award.

"They represent the pride and the passion and the commitment that everybody is expecting from Newcastle players. They are a good example of that."

Lascelles and Ritchie are the third joint winners of the 38th North East Football Writers Association's player of the year award, sponsored by William Hill.

They follow David McCreery and Neil McDonald in 1987, and Nyron Nosworthy and Dean Whitehead in 2007.

Lascelles, made captain by Benitez, joined Newcastle from Nottingham Forest in 2014. He made 43 appearances in the Championship last season and nine so far in the Premier League. In September he was nominated for Premier League player of the month, won by Harry Kane.

Scotland international Ritchie joined Newcastle from AFC Bournemouth in summer 2016 and he scored 12 goals in his 42 appearances last season.

Elsewhere, former Sunderland keeper Jordan Pickford retains the young player of the year award.

Sunderland's Victoria Williams is ladies player of the year.

Awards will also be presented to Jermain Defoe, Blyth Spartans, Spennymoor Town and South Shields.

The North East Football Writers Association's annual player of the year dinner will be held on Sunday February 11 at the Ramside Hall Hotel, Golf Club and Spa in Durham.