Newcastle United player lifts lid on 'difficult' spell out of Steve Bruce's starting XI

It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.
Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

Matt Ritchie thought his Newcastle United career was over earlier this season.

The winger was fit but not starting games, and a return to Bournemouth, his former club, was being discussed.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Some fans questioned why the tenacious player, involved in a well-publicised training ground row with head coach Steve Bruce in March, wasn’t in the team given the obvious need for more tenacity on the pitch during a dismal run of mid-season form which culminated in a shocking 3-0 defeat to Brighton and Hove Albion.

Matt Ritchie.Matt Ritchie.
Matt Ritchie.

However, the split-striker system didn’t suit Ritchie, a winger adept at playing as a wing-back, and it took a change in formation to accommodate Ritchie, who was recalled against Tottenham Hotspur a month ago.

"One of the reasons we picked that side was to get the balance right – and to get him in the team,” said Bruce at the time. “He brought something to us. He added an edge to us.”

Newcastle, certainly, needed an edge, and Ritchie, under contract until 2023, has started every game since then.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 31-year-old, signed by Rafa Benitez in the summer of 2016, has reflected on his spell out of the team in an interview with Sky Sports.

“If I'm honest, yes, I thought my Newcastle career was over," said Ritchie.

"As a kid I went on loan as a young age. When I went back to Portsmouth, I could've stayed there longer, but took the decision to move on and go and continue to play. I've always backed myself to get back up the leagues.

“It was difficult. It was probably my first spell in my career where I've been fully fit and not involved, so that was difficult mentally and physically, how to adapt and adapt my training. They're challenges I've not had before.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"It's about managing your body, so you’re ready when called upon, training throughout the week at the intensity which is going to be needed for the weekend, and when you're not involved for a long period, that can be difficult.

"I feel like I've come through it, learned a lot in the last six months, and I'm pleased with how I've reacted personally to those challenges."

A message from the Football Clubs Editor

Our aim is to provide you with the best, most up-to-date and most informative Newcastle United coverage 365 days a year.

This depth of coverage costs, so to help us maintain the high-quality reporting that you are used to, please consider taking out a subscription; sign up here.

Your support is much appreciated. Richard Mennear, Football Clubs Editor