Matt Ritchie quickly became a leader at Newcastle when he joined in the summer of 2016 from Bournemouth. We had just been relegated, but that didn’t deter the winger from dropping down a division to come to Tyneside.
Ritchie’s been an outstanding servant to the club since then. He’s become well known for his over-exuberance when celebrating with his teammates as well as his total commitment to the cause.
This season has been one of adversity for the 30-year-old, though. He missed over four months with the ankle injury suffered in August.
However, it’s not been all negative as his contract was extended to 2023 this past March.
Ritchie singled out former Magpie Georginio Wijnaldum as a player who left him amazed during training. This is what Ritchie said about the now Liverpool midfielder.
“Gini Wijnaldum was still there. This geezer. He didn’t want to be there so you can imagine he was in first gear every day.
“We trained for about six weeks and this guy was just smiling and he must have been thinking: ‘I have Liverpool on the back-burner’.” But he never gave the ball away. Everything he did, even in tiny little pockets he would find a Cruyff turn, little flicks around the corner. He was just unbelievable.
“Obviously now he has gone to Liverpool and he plays a little bit deeper. I watch him sometimes and I never really saw him in that role. In Newcastle he was a number 10. He was like a striker really at Newcastle but he has gone on to Liverpool and he is now a massive player.
“He, for me, was the one where I thought: ‘Wow, this guy is a joke’.”
Wijnaldum had all too short of a stay at Newcastle. He was only around for three weeks after Ritchie came aboard.
The Dutchman spent just one miserable season at Newcastle where we were relegated despite spending close to £80m, including £14.5 for the Wijnaldum.
Though it hurt at the time, in retrospect, we really can’t fault the 29-year-old for jumping to Liverpool. It turned out to be a magnificent move for him and he’s become such a complete player under Jurgen Klopp.
Last May, Gini had this to say about his time in Newcastle:
“I have great memories. I enjoyed the club, I enjoyed the city, I enjoyed the people, I enjoyed my teammates.
“That’s also the reason that I felt free there and I could play the way I was playing and I scored goals.
“I only have good memories; the only bad thing is that we were relegated, but besides that I had a great time there and my family had a great time there.
“Once in a while, I go back to Newcastle because I love the city.”
Interestingly, Wijnaldum’s contract with Liverpool expires next summer and talks have seemingly stalled on an extension.
While it seems crazy to even entertain it, we’d certainly let bygones be bygones and welcome Gini back to Newcastle under the new owners.