'It’s never easy' - why former Portsmouth favourite Matt Ritchie could have played last game for Newcastle
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The Gosport-born midfielder is out of contract at St James’ Park next month.
Ritchie has made 198 appearances for the Toon following his £12m move from Bournemouth in 2016, but could have played his last game for the club following the conclusion of the Premier League season on Sunday.
Ahead of Newcastle’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea – a game that the Pompey academy graduate missed because of injury – Howe insisted he desperately wanted to keep the player, with Champions League football returning to the Toon for the first time in 20 years.
However, he accepts mitigating circumstances might could conceivably get in the way – Ritchie’s links to the south coast.
Speaking to NewcastleWorld, Howe said: ‘I’ve held various discussions with Matt throughout the season and I think, first and foremost, he’s been very committed to Newcastle and to the team and aims this season. ‘I have said I desperately want to keep him next year.
‘He has had issues surrounding his family and the distance between him and them, it’s never easy when you have young children and that distance when you’re a parent is tough at times. But Matt has been exceptional and I certainly hope he stays for next season.’
Ritchie featured just seven times in the league for Newcastle this term, with his cameo appearance as an 89th-minute substitute against Southampton on April 30 possibly his final appearance in the famous black and whited striped shirt.
In an earlier interview, Howe admitted a desire to get more regular first-team action will also be on the player’s mind when a decision is eventually made.
If Ritchie’s seven-year Newcastle stay comes to an end next month, it’s sure to spark much intrigue around these parts.
Pompey fans would love to see Ritchie return to Fratton Park after more than 12 years away from the club.
Meanwhile, in April 2020, Ritchie said he had unfinished business with Pompey and was hungry for a Fratton return.