Newcastle took a huge step towards a return to the top flight on Saturday, with Matt Ritchie’s second half header being enough to take all 3 points.
Aside from yesterday’s heroics, Matt Ritchie has proved to be an inspired signing and a player fast becoming a crowd favourite at St. James’ Park.
Bought from Bournemouth last summer, the £12m man arrived with a wealth of Championship know-how, scoring 15 and assisting 17 in Bournemouth’s title winning promotion campaign in 2014/15. Newcastle fans will have therefore been more than aware of his proven ability at this level.
With 14 goals and 9 assists in all competitions, the winger has certainly chipped in offensively, however, the stats don’t do him justice. He is technically sound, with a solid range of passing, the ability to cross a ball and an eye for goal via his wand of a left foot.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Ritchie, however, is his energy, character and heart. He is relentless in his running, showing constant persistence and pressure both defensively and offensively.
On Saturday for example, it was the 90th minute and Wigan were pressing for the equaliser. While most of the side were out on their feet, Ritchie continued to lead by example, tearing around to prevent Wigan attacks in an attempt to regain possession. This sums up Ritchie and his defensive work, however his goal on Saturday also outlined his never say die attitude offensively. His initial shot struck the post, but as ever, he was alive and alert, reacting first to the rebound, allowing the quick-witted winger to head home the winner. His celebration that followed was also typical of the man, running over to smash into the corner flag and celebrate ferociously with the elated crowd – Ritchie has fire in his belly and a passion that is adored by the St. James’ Park faithful.
Matt Ritchie's goal to regain the lead! pic.twitter.com/ZEJdiFuhBC
— ㅤ (@MagpiesRelated) April 1, 2017
He is the heartbeat of this Newcastle United side, not only contributing to 23 goals but offering the sort of endeavour, tenacity and character that every fan and manager dreams of in a player.
While he may not possess the silky skills and ability to take on a man like the Ben Arfa’s and Ginola’s of yesteryear, his quality on the ball is undoubted, his energy is unparalleled and he has the heart of a lion.
A player worthy of the captain’s armband and a rightful contender for our player of the season, Ritchie has been a breath of fresh air and all things considered, Newcastle’s signing of the summer.