Leadership is a vital skill for any team out on the pitch and it can be hard to teach. Some players are naturally more gifted at directing their teammates and inspiring the players around them, with most picking up the captaincy at their respective clubs. Yet, a manager’s dream is those players who do not have the captain’s armband who all the same drive the team on both in its best and toughest times. For Newcastle, there is no player who epitomises such a player as full back Matt Ritchie.
The Scotland international’s passion on the pitch in the black and white is unrivalled, constantly driving on his teammates, applauding successful moves and positive attempts to move the team on as well as barking instructions and calling out needless, sloppy play. A rock at the back, he acts as a perfect secondary voice to captain Jamaal Lascelles in the centre and equally when he plays experienced local head Paul Dummett. Even compared to those two, who are familiar with the armband while leading out the black and white, Ritchie is arguably the most determined, passionate player in that Newcastle defence.
And hearing from his teammates, that attitude isn’t reserved just for game day. Instead, Ritchie shows just the same passion, expectation and drive for both himself and his teammates in training and off the pitch. His attitude helps bolster a spirit and minimum standard within the dressing room, as well as setting a golden example of a competitive mentality for the younger players in the squad. Besides, judging by his roaring voice and mad spirit seen out on the pitch, you wouldn’t want to be letting him down through any kind of complacency or poor attitude as a teammate.
These kinds of heart-on-their-sleeve players are gold dust for managers at clubs like Newcastle where there is a real need for everyone to pull their weight and perform to ensure the club doesn’t slip into a relegation scrap come the end of the season. It’s also unquestionably pleasing to see as a supporter. Newcastle supporters are endeared to Ritchie because of that passion as they see themselves in him as he slaps a teammate’s head in celebration or cannons a corner flag into the crowd. That raw emotion and passion, to bleed black and white, is the most any fan can ask of a player.