What it would take for Newcastle United's Matt Ritchie to come home to Portsmouth

One thing you can’t always tell when you read a story is the true sentiment behind the quotes.
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Are the words you’re reading genuine? Are they heartfelt and delivered with meaning?

Or are they populist soundbytes or managed rhetoric, peddled to give the masses what they want to hear?

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In the polished and heavily managed world in which footballers forward their views these days their thoughts, particularly in the game’s upper echelons, often fall into the latter category.

Not with what we’ve heard from Matt Ritchie over the past couple of days, though.

The News has charted the Premier League star’s progress from a cherub-esque child with Gosport Borough Youth to a fully-fledged and affable young man making his dreams come true at the highest level, before he was forced to look to ply his trade away from the club he loves.

In that time, they’ve been able to build the kind of trust which has afforded them the access not often seen with big-time footballers these days.

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That led to the kind of open and honest interview which has so excited the Fratton faithful today.

Matt Ritchie, left, with Jonjo Shelvey Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.Matt Ritchie, left, with Jonjo Shelvey Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.
Matt Ritchie, left, with Jonjo Shelvey Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

After celebrating the 10th anniversary of his Premier League bow at Wigan and lifting the lid on his 16-year Fratton journey, the academy graduate has revealed his ‘burning ambition’ to return home.

‘I do feel I’ve got unfinished business, for sure,’ Ritchie told portsmouth.co.uk today.

‘In my head my next challenge is definitely to play for Portsmouth again.

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‘I don’t want to come back and do one of those where I’m finished and my legs have gone. I want to come back and have an impact.

‘I want to be part of a success story at Portsmouth, for sure. I’ve got unfinished business I want to put to bed. I want to be a part of Portsmouth Football Club again.’

You can virtually hear the determination and conviction jumping from those words and, in this case, what you see is what you get.

It’s virtually unheard of for a Premier League player to talk of another club in such a way these days, but for Ritchie, after turning 30, evidently he feels the time is right to state his ambition.

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After signing a new deal keeping him at Newcastle United until 2023, the winger is happy and settled at St James’ Park.

But, following a Fratton career which totalled just 10 senior appearances as the club fell from grace, there’s a gap in his CV which needs to be filled: Pompey success.

As the academy graduate says himself, he’s not interested in being put out to pasture at PO4. This isn’t about a final pay day - it’s not about the money at all, in fact.

This is about a local lad coming home at contributing to creating a legacy for the club he adores. Think Paul Merson being from Gosport.

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In two or three years there’s no reason there won’t still be some meaningful miles left on the clock, for the lad whose Pompey journey started when he was picked up at Monckton Sports Group by legendary talent finder Dave Hurst.

A life dedicated to the game and a hunger and professionalism which keeps him thriving with the best in the business, suggests he would still be a sizeable asset when that day comes.

Of course, the footballing stars and crescent need to align to put that crest proudly back on Ritchie’s chest once more. The right man needs to be at the helm, the opening needs to be available and the deal done. The will would undoubtedly be there on the player’s part, however.

So we don’t have to look too far into the distance to see an ambitious Championship side with a home-grown Premier League standard bearer with a point to prove on board. And that would be too great an opportunity to miss.