Date: 12th May 2019 at 9:41am
Written by:

OPINION

Looking back now, with survival secured and one last dead rubber against already relegated Fulham to come, there have been a fair few success stories from Newcastle United’s season.

Martin Dubravka has been standout in net, Isaac Hayden looks like a new man in the middle of the park, and Ayoze Perez and Salomon Rondon have formed a genuinely lethal partnership up front.

In amongst all of these successes, however, the transformation of Matt Ritchie has to be right up there.

The Scottish international started the season as a right winger, but through a combination of necessity and tactical acumen from manager Rafa Benitez, has morphed magnificently into a left wing-back.

This new position suits Ritchie.

Playing at full-back still allows him to push on and create chances with his devilish crossing ability, but a less advanced role also makes perfect use of his natural reading of the game.

Add into the mix a dash of tenacious grit and some iron-lunged stamina, and Ritchie really is the ideal man for the job.

That’s why it will come as such a hammer blow, therefore, to hear that he could be on his way out of the club.

According to Football Insider, Stoke City are keen to offer him a bumper long-term contract as they plot their return to the top flight, and that should worry Newcastle fans.

Ritchie has already shown once that he is not averse to dropping down a division – as he did when he signed for the Toon Army from Bournemouth – and as confusion continues to reign over whether or not he will be offered an extension on his current deal at St. James’ Park, which expires in 2021, this could prove to be too much temptation for the £45,000-a-week ace [Spotrac] to resist.