Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce is confident that Matt Ritchie is on the right tracks with his recovery, and may return to action earlier than initially thought, as quoted by the Chronicle.
Ritchie has been out of action since the Magpies were beaten on penalties by Leicester City in the Carabao Cup last month, when the former Scotland international suffered three cuts to his ankle from a challenge by Foxes midfielder Hamza Choudhury.
Bruce was livid at Choudhury for the tackle he dispensed on Ritchie, and suggested the Leicester man could have ended the Gosport-born winger’s career (BBC) had his leg been planted in the ground.
The Toon boss has now revealed that Ritchie is already back out on the training fields at Darsley Park, despite initial indications pointing toward the 30-year-old facing two months on the sidelines.
“Matt Ritchie being Matt Ritchie is surprising us all,” Bruce said. “When I looked over today [Tuesday], he was running. He’s back on the training ground running in straight lines.
“I think that’s better news. With Matt, the good thing is it’s an impact injury. If there’s anything that an injury picks up on is impact. We know what it is. If it’s muscles, it’s always a bit of a problem and ligaments and things like that, but he’s out on the grass and the progress he’s made in two weeks is quite remarkable. I think it could be good news for all of us.
“He doesn’t look as if he’ll be [out for] eight weeks, I wouldn’t think. The way he is at the minute – we don’t put timescales on these things – but closer to four or five weeks might be better.”
Ritchie’s blow was the second injury concern the Scot had issued Bruce since the Newcastle head coach’s appointment in the summer, after the former AFC Bournemouth midfielder was forced off with a suspected hamstring injury against Hibernian during a pre-season friendly in July (Chronicle).
He was not ruled out of the curtain-raiser encounter with Arsenal at St. James’ Park as first feared, however, and featured for the full ninety minutes in each of the Magpies’ opening three Premier League games before the Leicester encounter in the Carabao Cup (TransferMarkt).
Two months out would have meant Ritchie missing upcoming games with Liverpool, Brighton & Hove Albion, Leicester, Manchester United, Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers, but he may now be in line to feature in the latter three of those.
Potentially having Ritchie back at his disposal against Manchester United, Chelsea and Wolves will almost certainly be a welcoming comfort for Bruce, as the 30-year-old offers his head coach a versatile option that can play on either flank, at left-wing-back and – as shown in the second-half against Arsenal – in the engine room.
Returning to action earlier than first thought puts more pressure on Jetro Willems to deliver in the Magpies’ upcoming fixtures, too, as the Dutch defender signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt must use Ritchie’s absence as the perfect chance to prove why he deserves to be the natural choice at left-back over a natural midfielder.
Newcastle fans, how big of a boost is Ritchie potentially returning to action earlier than planned for your side? Let us know in the comments below…Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more Newcastle notifications!