Newcastle veteran Steve Howey has backed Matt Ritchie to step up and fill the leadership void left by the absence of club captain Jamaal Lascelles through injury.
Howey, who made over 150 appearances for the Magpies, backed the Scotland international to captain his former side – despite a much-publicised row between Ritchie and Steve Bruce in a training ground bust-up.
Speaking to Football FanCast, Howey explained his reasoning for preferring Ritchie over current club vice-captain Jonjo Shelvey: “I don’t see why not because I think Shelvey’s been captain when Lascelles hasn’t been fit and that’s maybe not who the fans would expect.
“I don’t think the fans would have any qualms whatsoever about Matt Ritchie getting the captaincy.”
Ritchie played a vital role in the build-up to Newcastle’s equaliser as he marauded forward rapaciously and whipped in a superbly accurate cross to eventually set up Joe Willock’s equaliser.
He also played a full part in the weekend’s win over Burnley at Turf Moor, in what was the first time he had made back-to-back appearances since January.
Indeed, the 31-year-old left-back, who can also play in a more advanced midfielder role, has featured in just 11 Premier League games this season, suggesting he is hardly cementing himself as one of Steve Bruce’s trusted options.
Having started in less than a quarter of Newcastle league games this season, the Gosport-born utility man could yet play a part in Newcastle’s quest to avoid relegation.
Having been backed in recent weeks – and delivering in the process – he could be a key asset as Newcastle reach the business end of the season.