Ritchie: So hard to say goodbye to Pompey

Alex Bass. Picture: Joe Pepler

Pompey pre-season stalwart looking to make step up

Matt Ritchie waved a fond farewell to Pompey and admitted: It's so hard to leave.

The 21-year-old winger is set to pen a permanent two-and-a-half year deal with League One outfit Swindon Town for an initial transfer fee believed to be in the region of 200,000.

Blues boss Steve Cotterill decided the Gosport-born midfielder was surplus to requirements as he attempts to build his own squad amid the financial restrictions at Fratton Park.

And Ritchie, who fell out of the first-team reckoning despite starting the first three games of the season, has accepted he had to move on to further his own career.

The boyhood Pompey fan said: 'I've been here for a very long time and I have enjoyed myself at Portsmouth.

'I've seen a lot of things happen.

'I've enjoyed every minute I've been here.

'It's where I was born and it's the club I support so it's a little bit hard to leave.

'I need to do what's right for me, though. It was hard to get in the team.

'I have to thank everyone at Portsmouth and everyone who has helped me get to where I am today.

'It's a brilliant club and hopefully they can get out of the trouble they're in and push on now.

'Hopefully the move will become permanent next week. It seems like things are pretty much sorted so it looks as if it's going to happen.'

Cotterill admitted it was a tough call to sell Ritchie, who has been at the club since the age of 13 and was picked out as a future first-team star.

But the Blues boss maintains he had to make his judgement on whether the home-grown youngster would get a regular opportunity in the first team.

Unfortunately for Ritchie, Cotterill simply did not see that happening.

The Blues boss said: 'That deal has been more or less done for a while now. That is why Matt stayed on loan.

'He wants to go there, he's going to play regular football there.

'When and since we have been better and a bit stronger, Matt would find it difficult to get into this team, for sure.

'He's a great lad, I love him. He'll be one of the first ones to text you and say "happy new year, gaffer" and all of that.

'He's a great lad.

'But at the end of the day, you do have to look at it and not through rose-tinted glasses of what you think of the boy and find out whether he would be at the forefront or in your starting XI.

'And I don't see that happening for Matt.'

While Ritchie's fee is believed to be around 200,000, that could eventually rise to 250,000 and Cotterill is hopeful he will be given the cash to reinvest in the squad.

The Blues boss is also satisfied the club have got the right price.

Cotterill said: 'I know he is only a young player. The deal is very, very good from our point of view.

'His contract runs out at the end of the season and there has been a very, very good deal done there.

'We would have to be very pleased with that deal, for sure.

'In the summer there was a figure mooted before I came through the door that I would have thought would have been nowhere near what we should accept.

'Lo and behold, it has gone on six months but it's certainly a lot better now.'