Premier League Career: Portsmouth (2010), AFC Bournemouth (2015-2016), Newcastle United (2017-PRESENT)
After the briefest taste of Premier League football with Portsmouth in 2010, Matt Ritchie was part of AFC Bournemouth’s historic first campaign at this level and is back in the top-flight this season as he looks to play a role in keeping Newcastle United away from relegation.
Ritchie got his big break with Portsmouth. A part of their academy since the age of 13, Ritchie made his Premier League in April 2010. It was largely down to the club’s crippling injury list and the huge financial strain they were in too. He played 79 minutes in the defeat to Wigan Athletic and admitted it was a dream come true to make his debut for the club where he’d done all of his education with.
It looked like he was set for a bright future at Fratton Park but soon had a disagreement with new manager Steve Cotterill and was frozen out of his plans. He was loaned out to Swindon Town, making 16 appearances before the Robins’ agreed to make the loan move a permanent deal. Although Swindon were relegated to League Two at the end of the campaign, he was awarded the club’s Player of the Season award.
Ritchie remained a Swindon player until January 2013 and worked under Paolo di Canio, who was the club’s manager. His performances raised eyebrows with higher-profile clubs and AFC Bournemouth were among those admirers. Di Canio insisted he would not be sold, claiming he was worth £2 million. In March 2012, Ritchie won the League Two Player of the Year and was one of Swindon’s two players in the PFA Team of the Year.
Bournemouth eventually got their man in January 2013, after Swindon’s board decided their offer was too good to turn down. Di Canio was furious with the hierarchy and ultimately, Ritchie’s departure would turn out to be the catalyst for his exit from the County Ground. Ritchie joined a team in peak form and his first goal for the club in a 4-1 win over Bury starting a run of eight successive victories, shooting the club towards the Championship.
In 2014-2015, Matt won international recognition from Scotland. Despite being born in Gosport, Ritchie qualified to play for the Scots through his Scottish father and he made his debut in a friendly match against Northern Ireland. In club football, he had a sizzling campaign, scoring 11 times and setting up 13 further strikes for his teammates. Bournemouth went up as champions and would be playing Premier League football for the first time in their history – just six years after being close to relegation to the Conference.
His first top-flight strike was a venomous volley to help the Cherries beat Sunderland 2-0 in September 2015 and earn them their first home win in the Premier League. A month later, Ritchie scored the club’s fastest goal of the season, netting inside a minute against Tottenham Hotspur although it ended in a horrid 5-1 home defeat.
Bournemouth finished 16th in their first Premier League campaign, with Matt chipping in with four goals, so it was a surprise to see him drop down a division to Newcastle United in July 2016, signing a five-year deal to move to Tyneside. He scored 16 goals in all competitions, only being outscored by Dwight Gayle as Newcastle comfortably earned promotion back to the Premier League at the first attempt.
As of January 2018, Ritchie has featured 23 times for Newcastle in the Premier League and has created more chances for his teammates than any other Magpies’ player this season. He has the quality to change matches with dangerous crosses and inch-perfect passes. However, he hasn’t scored yet this season and it will help Rafa Benitez out in their relegation battle to see him rediscover his goalscoring touch as the season progresses.