In an exclusive with Football Insider, McLeish says that Ritchie wants to head back down south for personal reasons amid speculation of a move to former club Bournemouth.
Here is what Ritchie’s ex international boss said in full:
“I know Ritchie, I spoke to Ritchie a few times to try and get him to play regularly for Scotland but there was little I could do.
“I don’t want to discuss anybody’s private life, but I think his family did move back down south and he was kind of maybe looking to move back there to some club.
“He’s been very, very important to Newcastle and he’s fitted into the systems really well.
“Not only was he a dangerous winger but he played the wing-back position extremely well, he was taught that and he took it in and understood it and you’ve got a great asset there when you’ve got that.
“He’s been a real warrior for Newcastle, I would say, in the last few years but if his family are down south and it’s more of a personal thing, then perhaps it’s a really good move for him.
“You think Bournemouth would still be a force in the Championship to get back to the Premier League.”
Interestingly, Steve Bruce has also spoken about his future today now he wasn’t included in a potential part-exchange involving Callum Wilson, and admits his ‘head was turned’ by serious talk of a move down south.
“All along with it, I wanted him to stay.
“‘It’s fair to say that Bournemouth turned his head and didn’t come up with the deal that he wanted and, from my respect, he’s staying.
“Whether that will change we’ll see.”
He clearly wants Ritchie to stay, but, reading between the lines on all of the above, Ritchie is very much open to a move that allows him to be closer to family.
After all, would we have tried to structure a deal for Wilson that involved Matt Ritchie if he was had no interest in leaving?
Ritchie is still a versatile and valued member of our squad who was very much an important part of our starting XI after Project Restart, but if what McLeish says is true then we shouldn’t begrudge him of a move away after several brilliant years of service.