Newcastle United briefing: Where's Matt Ritchie? Jaap Stam on Newcastle

Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie

Just where was Matt Ritchie?

The Professional Footballers' Assocation today revealed their Championship Team of the Year.

Three Newcastle United players made it into the XI, but there was one surprise omission.

Winger Ritchie, superb this season for Rafa Benitez's side, did not make the PFA's selection.

Here's your daily briefing:

Odd man out?

It wasn't a surprise to see 22-goal striker Dwight Gayle named in the PFA's Championship Team of the Year.

Nor was it a surprise to see midfielder Jonjo Shelvey make the PFA XI.

The inclusion of defender Jamaal Lascelles was more of a surprise given the competition, though the 23-year-old has proved an able leader since succeeding Fabricio Coloccini as captain last summer.

And Ritchie's omission was certainly a surprise given the goals, energy and above all else consistency he has brought to Benitez's side over the past eight months.

Winger Anthony Knockaert, outstanding for promoted Brighton and Hove Albion, was named in the four-man midfield along with Shelvey, Fulham's Tom Cairney and Huddersfield Town's Aaron Mooy, on loan from Manchester City.

That's a very, very strong midfield, even without Ritchie.

Rocket science

Grant Hanley was one of the few players prepared to speak after United's Easter Monday defeat to Ipswich Town.

And the defender, signed from Blackburn Rovers last summer, wasn't panicking after the club's 3-1 loss at Portman Road.

The result left the second-placed club six points ahead of third-placed Reading and a further point ahead of Huddersfield, who have a game in hand.

Hanley had a simple message ahead of Newcastle's April 24 home game against Preston North End.

"We need to show our togetherness, show the strength we have in the squad, and make sure we pick it up again," said Hanley, a Championship veteran.

“We just need to keep going. It speaks for itself really. We’ve got three games to get promoted, so it’s in our own hands.

“It’s not rocket science. If we look after ourselves, we get promoted. That’s what we’re going to do."

And finally...

Jaap Stam is focused on one thing – and it's NOT catching Newcastle.

Reading, mathematically, could yet overtake United and claim the second automatic promotion place, but Stam is more concerned with what's happening below his team.