Newcastle United left counting the cost of this damaging tackle
Matt Ritchie’s not a player that Newcastle United can afford to be without for any length of time.
Yet one poor challenge has deprived Steve Bruce of his services for half a season.
Ritchie has been an influential player for the club over the past three years – on and off the pitch – since joining from Bournemouth.
Yes, Ritchie’s still an influence behind the scenes. And yes, Jetro Willems, signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, has been playing well at wing-back in his absence. But Ritchie’s not a player you want to be without given his tenacity and industry. The 30-year-old’s also important for his set-piece deliveries.
Ritchie this week had a second operation on his ankle – and won’t play again this year.
Bruce hit out at what he felt was a “horror challenge” from Hamza Choudhury after August’s Carabao Cup defeat to Leicester at St James’s Park.
“It’s a horror challenge,” said United’s head coach. “We fear ankle damage – he has three cuts which all need stitches. He’s a mess. It’s difficult to take. He’s been stitched in three different wounds, and we’ll have to see if he has ankle damage. When you’re over the top, lunging in, you can damage people.”
The tackle, we know now, did damage Ritchie's ankle. Hopefully, he’ll be back in the New Year.
Only time will tell how damaging that challenge will be to Newcastle’s campaign.