The Scotland international has made the position his own at St James’ Park since making the transition a year or so ago, and Durham feels he is now one of the best in the top flight.
“In terms of left wing backs, left backs or attacking left backs: you’ve got Andy Robertson, Lucas Digne and, for me, you’ve got Matt Ritchie,” he told talkSPORT [30/08; 16:37]. “He’s perfected the position.
“From being an out and out wide man, he has perfected that position. This [Ritchie’s injury] is massive for Newcastle – he is brilliant for them. He is a thorough professional as well, he loves being at the football club. For him to be out for two months is a massive blow for him and the team.”
Look, Ritchie is a good player and he’s done remarkably well in transitioning from a winger to a defensively-sound wing back, but Durham’s going a bit far here, isn’t he? He’s got the top two left backs in the Premier League right with Robertson and Digne – there’s no arguing with that – but is he really saying that Ritchie is better than Ben Chilwell, Danny Rose or Oleksandr Zinchenko? There’s just no way, particularly in Chilwell’s case. The England international is simply a much better full back than the Scot, and it’s really not close. That’s no disrespect to Ritchie, he’s a natural winger after all, but Durham is getting a bit too excited, here. The injury to Ritchie, which Steve Bruce confirmed on Friday via Sky Sports, is a big blow to Newcastle, Durham’s right about that. The former Bournemouth man is absolutely crucial to this Magpies side, so to lose him for two months is very much a significant thorn in Bruce’s side.