Richie ‘still avail­able for the Scots’

The Chronicle - - Sport -

RAFA Ben­itez has in­sisted that Matt Ritchie has not re­tired from in­ter­na­tional foot­ball with Scot­land.

The New­cas­tle United man­ager is likely to pick Ritchie for the clash with his for­mer club AFC Bournemouth this week­end.

But the 29-year-old will not link with the Scots for their UEFA Na­tions League games with Al­ba­nia and Israel.

Ben­itez sug­gested that Alex McLeish had sanc­tioned Ritchie’s re­quest for a break from the in­ter­na­tional scene.

He said: “I think he has been talk­ing with (Scot­land man­ager) Alex McLeish.

“He is re­ally proud to play for his coun­try, but he knows we need every­thing here at the mo­ment.

“Hope­fully he wins things for Scot­land in the fu­ture, though.”

McLeish had said: “Matt wanted to be left out for the fore­see­able fu­ture. It’s pri­vate. It is not some­thing for me to dis­cuss.

”He had in­jury is­sues as well, and again, there is man­age­ment of his in­juries.”

Ritchie joined New­cas­tle for £12m in July 2016, and has be­come a ma­jor part of Ben­itez’s side.

Many peo­ple ques­tioned his de­ci­sion to drop down a divi­sion, at the time of sign­ing New­cas­tle were in the Cham­pi­onship, but speak­ing to the Chron­i­cle, the winger said he has no re­grets leav­ing Bournemouth.

“It cer­tainly doesn’t frus­trate me to see them do­ing bet­ter than us at this time. Far from it, in fact,”

Ritchie replied when asked about his for­mer club Bournemouth’s suc­cess, given that the Cher­ries are cur­rently sixth in the Premier League while New­cas­tle lan­guish in 17th.

“The way they’ve started the sea­son re­ally pleases me. I couldn’t be hap­pier for them. To see so many peo­ple I left be­hind do­ing well, that’s great.

“It was my de­ci­sion to leave Bournemouth be­cause New­cas­tle was the place I wanted to be – and it’s the same now.

“It’s a chal­lenge I have rel­ished tak­ing on and I still am. For all the good times I had at Bournemouth, not for one mo­ment have I re­gret­ted the move.”

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