Eddie Howe names the Newcastle United player who is ‘incredible’ behind the scenes

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Eddie Howe and Matt Ritchie have had a close relationship since their Bournemouth days.

Eddie Howe has hailed Matt Ritchie for his incredible leadership behind the scenes at Newcastle United this campaign.

The 33-year-old - who is into his seventh, and perhaps final season at St James’ Park - has made just eight appearances in 2022-23 but remains a key member of the dressing room, as explained by Howe.

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“Matt, behind the scenes, has been incredible this year,” Howe told reporters ahead of Sunday’s Premier League clash against Manchester United. “He’s a big presence vocally, you can hear him wherever you are! But he’s got a great personality.

Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe (left) and Matt Ritchie (left). (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe (left) and Matt Ritchie (left). (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Newcastle United head coach Eddie Howe (left) and Matt Ritchie (left). (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“He’s really driven the group this year, he’s one of our leaders. When you consider he hasn’t had as much as he would have lived, he’s driven the team in a really positive way, so I can’t speak highly enough of him.

“ But also, he can still play, I’ve got no doubt about that. He came on against Nottingham Forest and made an impact. He’s got a big part to play for us.”

Both of Ritchie’s rare starts this term have come against lower league opposition in Tranmere Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday, though has been used from the bench during back-to-back wins against Wolverhampton Wanderers and Nottingham Forest last month.

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But as we enter the remaining 12 games of the campaign, it’s likely to be Ritchie’s farewell. The player is out-of-contract this summer and in previous windows has been linked with a move closer to his family down south.

Speaking about Ritchie’s future last summer, Howe said: “Matty’s own personal situation … he will have his own thoughts, Mine’s to try and keep him, but it’s well documented that Matty has been away from his family for a long period of time.

“He loves playing for Newcastle – and is very passionate about the club – but, I think, it’s unclear what direction we’ll take this year. But, from both sides, there’s a lot of respect.”

Ritchie has been an excellent servant for the football club since joining from Bournemouth for £10m, and will be remembered for helping United back to the Premier League at the first attempt in 2016-17. In total, Ritchie has made 196 appearances.

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