Newcastle United star Matt Ritchie has claimed he ‘doesn’t understand’ the unrest at St James’ Park going into the Premier League curtain-raiser at home to Arsenal.
Speaking with talkSPORT, the former Scotland international urged Toon fans to back the team this season, and defended Mike Ashley’s methods of running the club as to compete at the top of the table requires ‘mega, mega, mega-money’.
Ritchie feels the Sports Direct owner has been ‘honest and upfront’ about what funds will be spent and what direction he wishes to take the Magpies in, while suggesting we should follow in the methods of his former side AFC Bournemouth, in how the small club excelled by all pulling in the same direction.
Toon fans have regularly shared their frustrations in how United is being run this summer, with Champions League-winning manager Rafa Benitez allowed to leave the club at the end of his contract in June, while Ayoze Perez was sold to Leicester City and Ashley refused to buy last season’s Player of the Year Salamon Rondon from West Bromwich Albion.
Protests are planned for Sunday’s visit of Arsenal to the North East, with supporters gathering ahead of the tie and marching to St James’ Park, where they intend to have their voices heard.
But Ritchie evidently does not expect the protests to have a positive impact on how the team perform, and has called for supporters to be ‘in this together’.
“I don’t understand the unrest, I’ve got to be honest,” he said. “The club has gone out and spent money, we’re pushing and trying to compete with the teams we can compete with, and you have to be real – to compete at the top of the Premier League now is mega, mega, mega-money.
“The owner has been honest in interviews in the press and has said he can’t go and compete with them, he’s been upfront about that, and to do that [compete at the top] he’d have to sell the club.”
“For me, we all have to be in this together,” Ritchie added. “There has been unrest ever since I arrived at the club, and the main thing I took from Bournemouth, and I know it’s a smaller club, but everyone was pulling in the same direction, with the same philosophy and mentality and desire to help one another.
“That’s what we need to be here; the fans, the staff and the players all as one and pulling in the same direction.”
Newcastle fans reacting on social media to his comments have not been impressed, to say the least.
Here’s what these fans had to say in reply…
6 players left ,3players have come in 90million to spend so far net spend 20 million. Stadium is been untouched ,training ground is desperate for a upgrade . We are weaker now than we were for past 2 seasons and fans are supposed to be happy?
— Andrew Kent (@biggeordie77) August 7, 2019
All well and good saying it’s mega money to compete with the top 6 but we aren’t even competing with Bournemouth or Brighton in Ashley’s tenure.
— Andy Ebdale (@ebdale4) August 7, 2019
How hard is it for it to be understood that Newcastle fans Don’t expect to be competing with anyone in the top 6 and beyond.
Financially we aren’t competing with the bottom 6!!! Use your heads and look at our net spends
— Izaac Thaw (@izaacthaw25) August 7, 2019
disappointing to hear this from someone like MR. The players are either in a bubble and don’t understand what the fans have a problem with or they are complicit in #AshleyLies either way this is worrying. Calling the fans out like this is a slippery slope #NUFC #BoycottArsenal
— Rütger van Banks (@banksie1892) August 7, 2019
— Paul Palpatine (@Magman55) August 7, 2019
Another mercenary doing his masters bidding. Along with the likes of Nolan and Lascelles he’s just sold his relationship with the fans for the fat slug’s thirty pieces of silver. #BoycottArsenal
— Andy Rivers (@andy_rivs) August 7, 2019
Disappointing but you don’t bite the hand that feeds.
It’s tough to jump on anti Mike Ashley bandwagon when he’s paying your wages. ????
— John Potts #NUFC (@johnpottm) August 7, 2019
Just gets more embarrassing. Wasn’t that long players were striking due to MA going back on promises. He’s been proven in court to be a liar. Clearly had his pension pot topped up here and so, so disappointed reading this. Another player prostituting themselves.
— Mark Tserkezie (@MTserkezie) August 7, 2019
Player paid millions by club owner wont slag said owner off….shock!!!
— Mark (@b80mg) August 7, 2019
We know the truth, we have experienced the last 12 years. We know #BoycottArsenal is the right.
This is the start of our campaign to achieve our goal #AshleyOut #EnoughIsEnough
Make a stand for the future of your club.
There are toon fans who have only had ashley as there owner pic.twitter.com/D5HyMrjekY
— The Magpie Group (@MagpieGroupNUFC) August 7, 2019
From a player’s point of view, Matt’s comments make sense: the team, staff and supporters giving their all. For Matt it’s all about the here and now. That’s fine, but fans see a bigger picture, ie 12 years of #Nufc being forced to operate as if it is one of the league’s minnows
— The Clocktoys (@clocktoys) August 7, 2019
Defending Ashley, when a year ago, first-team players essentially went on strike and refused to carry out media duties including pre-match walk ons for Sky/BT because the club refused to meet their demands regarding bonuses. Short memories eh Matt..?
— KTDT (@KTD89) August 7, 2019