‘Absolute pleasure’ - Newcastle United stalwart gives teary-eyed goodbye as Eddie Howe hails ‘inspirational’ leader

Newcastle United veteran Matt RitchieNewcastle United veteran Matt Ritchie
Newcastle United veteran Matt Ritchie
Matt Ritchie was one of four Newcastle United players confirmed to be leaving the club this summer

Matt Ritchie eulogised his “unbelievable” Newcastle United career once the club confirmed their retained list for the upcoming season.

The 34-year-old arrived at St James’ Park in 2016 following relegation to the Championship. Benitez headhunted Ritchie as the ideal character to lead Newcastle towards an instant Premier League return.

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That is exactly what the veteran performer achieved before helping the Magpies establish themselves as a top-flight outfit. Game time has been limited in recent years due to Ritchie’s age and the Saudi-backed takeover.

But the Newcastle stalwart reminded everyone of his importance in February, chipping in with a 92nd-minute equaliser against Bournemouth. The Magpies announced Ritchie, alongside Paul Dummett, Jeff Hendrick and Kelland Watts, will all leave when their contracts expire next month.

Ritchie hailed his eight seasons on Tyneside while predicting exciting times for Newcastle in the coming years. He said: “It’s what you work hard for from being a kid. You watch teams like Newcastle on the TV growing up. Obviously, in the Premier League.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to come to a football club like this. I moved around a lot of the time in my younger years on loan. To come somewhere and be part of the progress of the football club is something nice.

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“I’m full of love and energy for the game. The club are striving to go in the right direction and I’m thankful to have been part of the process. This club is an unbelievable football club. It’s only going in one direction and it’s an absolute pleasure to be involved.”

Eddie Howe - the man who signed him for Bournemouth - also highlighted Ritchie’s importance in the dressing room. Stars like Sean Longstaff previously revealed how the 34-year-old has been a shoulder of comfort during difficult times.

“He’s just an incredible guy,” Howe added. “Inspirational… in lots of different ways. If you speak to the other players in the squad they’ll tell you how good he is behind the scenes, how well he trains every day, how vocal he is and his drive within the group.”

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