Could this veteran be an X-factor for Newcastle down the stretch?

Newcastle United F.C.'s Matt Ritchie. (Photo by ANDREW BOYERS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Newcastle United F.C.'s Matt Ritchie. (Photo by ANDREW BOYERS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images) /

Now that he’s returned from injury, Matt Ritchie could be a gamechanger for Newcastle United.

Newcastle United’s win over Crystal Palace allowed the Magpies to end a two-match losing streak. The victory also marked the return of Jonjo Shelvey and Matt Ritchie after recovering from surgeries. While Shelvey’s importance is more evident, Ritchie could prove to be an X-factor for the club down the stretch this season.

Ritchie’s calling cards are his crossing, from the run of play or set pieces, and his fiery energy and passion. But, injuries and other circumstances surrounding him have limited his impact this season and last year.

He was taken out by a dirty tackle by Hamza Choudhury and missed significant time last season before suffering an AC joint injury vs. Spurs this season. Then, with Newcastle’s struggle to find a competent striker in recent years,  Ritchie’s crossing ability has often been wasted. He’s also been stuck as a left wing-back when the club was thin there.

Now that the club has Jamal Lewis to occupy the left-back position and Callum Wilson as a proven goalscorer up top, Ritchie can be a major gamechanger with his crossing and energy on the wing. Whether he is getting a start here and there or coming off the bench, Ritchie could be a valuable weapon for Steve Bruce down the stretch this season.

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If he was able to pick up eight Premier League assists during the 2018-19 season connecting with Salomon Rondon, Ritchie and Wilson could make a formidable tandem as the season progresses.