Matt Ritchie gives former Sunderland boss Steve Bruce a Newcastle United headache – in more ways than one
Newcastle United head coach Steve Bruce admits the injury to Matt Ritchie has given him more than a selection headache at St James’s Park.
Ritchie, a guaranteed starter under Bruce, was forced off in the Carabao Cup after a horror tackle caused him ankle ligament damage.
And while Jetro Willems filled in admirably against Watford in the Premier League, Bruce admits not having Ritchie around is a blow in more ways than one.
Firstly, his attitude is a loss – and secondly, he’s been forced into a rethink in the penalty stakes.
Bruce explained: “Matt Ritchie was our taker. We have to find a new one now – that’s one thing we’ve been doing on the training ground.
“Joelinton took one in training the other day. Jonjo (Shelvey) and Isaac (Hayden) smashed them in the top corner, (Yoshinori) Muto and (Fabian) Schar missed.”
Scotland international Ritchie is set to be missing for at least another month with the ankle issue, which also required stitches on three separate wounds.
Bruce admits that while Ritchie sends him around the bend – he wishes every player was just like him.
“My job would be so much easier if they were all like Matt Ritchie. I think I would be round the bend like,” joked the head coach, whose side travel to Anfield to take on champions of Europe Liverpool in seven days time.
“His attitude, the way he trains, the way he works, looks after himself, the way he is as a pro is right up there as good as you can get. He will be a big miss so he will have a break for a little bit and then we will have him back around the place because he has an abundance of enthusiasm and that rubs off on others. He’s terrific every day.
“He enjoys it and gives himself a slap every now and then saying to himself how good it is. Because he knows how tough it is. Given the grounding that he has had, I say to them constantly, ‘you’ve got the best job in the world’. Maybe when their careers are finished, they will realise it and remember it – they’ve got the greatest job.”