Matt Ritchie’s been backed to play a role for Newcastle United between now and the end of the season – on and off the pitch.
Long-serving Ritchie hasn’t played for the club since the January 8 FA Cup defeat to Cambridge United because of injury.
The 32-year-old has fully recovered from a knee problem – and has been on the bench for the past few games.
Eddie Howe – who previously worked with Ritchie at Bournemouth – says the winger, a “big voice” in the dressing room, will have a significant role to play for the club.
“He had quite a serious knee injury,” said United’s head coach. “He recently came back, had minimal training time, so he was probably on the bench before he was ready to be. Due to numbers, that opportunity was given to him.
“I think now, we’ve gone away, had an intense period of training with him, he’s in a much better place physically. He’s a player that I trust, I admire, I really like, and he’s got a big part to play on and off the pitch, as he’s a really big voice in the dressing room.”
Ritchie was a vital member of the club that won the Championship in 2017 after being bought from Bournemouth by then-manager Rafa Benitez in 2016.
The former Scotland international is under contract at Newcastle for another season after being linked with a return to his promotion-chasing old team last year.
Ritchie clashed with Steve Bruce, Howe’s predecessor, last season. He returned to the starting XI late in the campaign and helped the team secure Premier League safety.