Matt Ritchie’s strong start to the Premier League season – with a flurry of assists – faltered somewhat as Newcastle headed towards a desperate relegation battle.

Having netted the goals that got the Magpies promoted last term, Ritchie’s scoring touch initially deserted him back in the top flight.

And so it was perhaps no surprise to see Newcastle linked with wingers across Europe, Garry Rodrigues a name that will not go away while Johann Berg Gudmundsson is also reportedly a target.

Ritchie has remained popular on Tyneside, but he could have had few complaints had he been ushered out the door in the summer as Rafa Benitez searched for Premier League class.

But the Scotland international is now proving that he can be that man.

He has finally found his range – scoring in consecutive home wins – and operates as a crucial cog in a well-oiled Newcastle team right now, limiting Christian Atsu to cameos and Jacob Murphy to something less than that.

With Kenedy still set to return to Chelsea at the end of the season, too, Ritchie has taken the opportunity to present his case to Rafa.

Possibly playing for his Newcastle future just weeks ago, his place now looks more assured than that of any fellow winger.

Ritchie deserves great credit for this turnaround.

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