After all the drama that came out of the training ground bust-up between Matt Ritchie and Steve Bruce a few weeks ago, it’s fair to say that things have worked out fairly well since then for Newcastle.
Reports back in early March suggested that the two were involved in a heated confrontation, with the Scotland international even going as far as calling the Magpies manager a “coward”.
Fast forward a couple of months later, and things on the pitch are going far more swimmingly, with Ritchie instrumental in a superb 4-2 win over Leicester in the Premier League on Friday night.
The left wing-back was his usual snarling self, bombing up and down the flank and not being afraid to dish it out either to his teammates or the opposition.
As per Sofascore, Ritchie completed two of his three attempted dribbles on the night, which was a number only bettered by Allan Saint-Maximin (five). He also had the most touches and crosses of any Newcastle player – that’s not to mention the absolutely superb delivery from the corner which Paul Dummett headed the visitors’ second goal.
The vocal leadership was also something which was clear to see, with the Magpie 24/7 fan channel tweeting that he “didn’t stop shouting all night” and that “the difference he’s made to this team since that Brighton defeat isn’t commended enough.”
Writing in his post-match player ratings for the Shields Gazette, Liam Kennedy gave him an eight, saying: “A typical all-action display down the left. And, for a change, didn’t look open defensively. Two more assists to add to his tally for the campaign.”
While many of the plaudits will naturally go towards the goalscorers on the night, Ritchie deserves plenty of credit for the way he set the tone with his intensity and energy.
He may not have been wearing the captain’s armband, but the £45,000-a-week machine was the leader the Magpies needed, and arguably Bruce’s real hero on the night.