We have almost reached the (steady) climax of our 5 Part series outlining next season's top 5 bargain midfield enablers. It's been an emotional journey and one we hope you have enjoyed as much as we have.
Enough of the misty eyed chat as we turn our attention to todays prospect, Newcastle’s "Midfield Maestro" Matt Ritchie.
Now admittedly Matt does have a face like a bag of spanners but the lad can play a bit, as his stats have demonstrated over the last 3 seasons.
Born Matthew Ritchie on the 10th September 1989 in South Hampshire (you know South Hampshire right that little town in Scotland* …) his football career began at Portsmouth in 2008 with loan spells soon following at Dagenham & Redbridge, Notts County and Swindon before the latter made the loan deal permanent in January 2011.
Matt went on to make 91 appearances for the Robins scoring 23 times. It was this form that brought him to the attention of Bournemouth gaffer Eddie Howe in the January transfer window, with the south coast club paying 400K to secure his services for the rest of the 13/14 season. Drama surrounded the move with perennial Nut Job Italian Manager Paulo Di Crazio, accusing the board of selling the player behind his back with Ritchie himself being quoted as saying he was "surprised" at the sale.
Following the move Ritchie settled quickly in to life in League One helping Bournemouth clinch promotion with some stand out performances. It would be the 14/15 Season where Ritchie cemented his potential as an attacking and creative force. Featuring for 3731 minutes in 44 Championship appearances he registered 15 goals, 17 Assists and a staggering 98 chances created as the driving force catapulting the cherries to PL Promotion. It was also during this time Ritchie started his love affair with the colour yellow collecting six bookings during the season.
15/16 was Ritchie’s debut PL season with Bournemouth and it was a pack of revels (mixed bag - sorry) compromising 2979 minutes of pitch time over 37 matches the man with the magic hat scored 4 goals and provided 6 assists, creating 42 chances in the process. At times he showed a lot of FPL promise with his stand-out performances seeing his ownership rapidly increase at points in the season, but his form was patchy and inconsistent much like the cherries debut PL season. This lead to frustration amongst managers and the scars may lie to deep for them to consider Ritchie again.
On the international front Ritchie has won 14 caps for the tartan army despite the fact he's about as Scottish as Kim Yung Un.
"Ritchie’s fucking magic, he wears a magic hat, he's got a magic dog and he's got a magic cat!"* *
In July 2016 Ritchie made the rather surprising move to newly relegated side Newcastle United.The Toon pulled off a major coup in getting Ritchie to drop down a level Paying £10M to acquire his services. Last season he delivered solid numbers in a Benitez lead championship winning side - with Ritchie making 40 league starts totalling 3457 minutes scoring 12 goals providing 7 assists and creating 82 goal scoring chances. He was however an angry little bastard for most of last season. and picked up a hefty 10 yellow cards. a potential cause for concern next season in the form of -1 hits and the possibility of suspension. As one of Newcastle’s stand out performers he was a big hit with the St James faithful leading to the much-used terrace chant.
Looking at Ritchie’s stats over the last 3 seasons its plain to see the two seasons in the championship yielded far greater returns this his sole PL campaign. There is however is a lot of room for optimism with a predicted starting price of £5.5M Ritchie is going to be sought after. Benitez generally opted to field a 4-4-1-1 formation last season with Ritchie operating in an advanced role on the right side of midfield where he unleashed all sorts of havoc upon championship defences. The guy has a bit of everything in an attacking sense, whilst not Usain Bolt he has enough pace to get by and can dribble effectively with both feet beating defenders to the by-line and when cutting inside. Like Tyson fury, he loves a shot and managed 122 last season! (That’s Ritchie not Tyson Fury; Fury can easily put away 34 Jaeger Bombs per session). If Newcastle are to deliver any attacking returns next season, they will primarily come through this man. Regular shots from distance, dangerous crosses into the box and an eye for a tap-in, coupled with the fact he will be taking corners, free kicks and probably penalties gives him a very high potential for being a high points scorer for his relatively cheap price tag.
* not actually in Scotland
** May not be the exact words song is sung by a load of drunk Geordies (occasionally me) and is almost inaudible.
Matt Ritchie bus pic from Flikr/chrisparker2012
Image courtesy of catsinhats.com