Bruce reveals how the ‘best pro’ he’s ever worked with “forced” a way into his first-team plans

Steve Bruce has heaped huge praise on Matt Ritchie following our 3-0 win against Sheffield United, saying he hasn’t worked with a better pro than him during all of his years in management.

Ritchie was one of the best performers of the day, assisting the opener and scoring the second with a superb strike from 25-yards, silencing some on social media who had aired their surprise at his inclusion ahead of talented loanee Valentino Lazaro.

Here’s what the gaffer had to say about Ritchie on NUFC TV, revealing how the 30-year-old has “forced” his way back into the Newcastle first-team:

“He’s trained for the last two or three days.

“He’s had a slight strain but trained magnificently for the past two or three weeks, so it was all about him really, if he’s right.

“Thankfully, he was right, and if there’s a better pro around than Matt Ritchie, I’ve yet to see him.

“He forces his way into your team sheet because of his attitude.”

While Ritchie is now on the wrong side of 30, he has recently been rewarded with a new long-term contract, something that would usually go against our club policy under Mike Ashley.

His experience, versatility and presence in the dressing room is obviously valued by Bruce, and he rewarded his manager big time yesterday with a stellar performance to prove he still has the quality to play in the Premier League.

Danny Rose looked uncomfortable in the opening stages & Bruce quickly recognised this, swapping the more defensive-minded Ritchie with Saint-Maximin to provide extra cover on the left-hand side.

This worked wonders for us tactically, with the first goal coming from that flank courtesy of Ritchie and being tucked away by, you guessed it… Saint-Maximin!

Vocal characters like Ritchie will be essential from now until the end of the season to ensure that standards don’t slip and we don’t allow ourselves to get complacent despite having a healthy 11 point gap between us and the bottom three.

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