Just what price can you put on screeching in someone’s ear?

Maybe around £100 million if you’re Mike Ashley.

Matt Ritchie’s re-integration into the side in the latter stages of last season was the catalyst Newcastle United needed to stay up.

Manager Steve Bruce putting Ritchie on the left and Jacob Murphy on the right led to a resurgence in form that sailed Newcastle safely above the relegation zone. 

If you type his name on Twitter now, this gif exists. 

Ritchie’s passion for the club and its status is fastidious. It’s even mocked by the club’s own fervent supporters. 

Indeed, he’s become known to get so over the top when his teammates score a goal that he ends up even hurting them at times. 

Speaking to the Newcastle Chronicle about his overexcitement during celebrations, he said: “I actually gave Jonjo [Shelvey] one and I don’t know how this was never seen.

“Jonjo scored, or we scored, and I clapped Jonjo straight on the top of my head and he actually kicked me.

“I had hit him so hard in excitement and hadn’t realised and Jonjo actually kicked me on the pitch. I don’t know how anyone didn’t see it.

Leicester City v Newcastle United - Premier League
LEICESTER, ENGLAND – MAY 07: Callum Wilson of Newcastle United celebrates with Jacob Murphy, Matt Ritchie, Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin (Photo by Newcastle United/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

“It was crazy but it was funny. I just get so excited and so buzzing.”

 

Ritchie has everything to admire in a footballer – passion, vigour, desire – but not only this, his form in the Premier League makes for some neat reading, too.

He made the sixth-highest of number key passes per 90 minute for a winger or wingback in the Premier League last season; he equalled Leeds United’s Raphinha as making the highest total of long-ball key passes in the entire division (0.9 per 90 minutes).

He only was dispossessed  0.3 times per 90 minutes a game, too (Andros Townsend was 2.2 for context) – and the 31-year-old also made 2.7 clearances in the same time. (Newcastle have been the absolute clearing kings under Bruce last campaign, making the highest of the league with 23.1 per 90.)

But last season had been rocky for Ritchie, who only started 15 games, the majority in the final third.

“If I’m honest, yes, I thought my Newcastle career was over,” he said to Sky Sports. “It was difficult, it was probably my first spell in my career where I’ve been fully fit and not involved, so that was difficult mentally and physically, how to adapt and adapt my training.”

Ritchie has fought tooth and nail for a return to the first team, and such grit and determination could be precisely the difference between a relegation scrap and more next campaign, just as it was last season.

Such a character on the pitch would be invaluable to the side.

Jacque Talbot is on Twitter

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