Ritchie eager to help Newcastle promotion bid – as Benitez looks for defensive boost

Matt Ritchie sports Newcastle's new home kit after joining the Magpies yesterday
Matt Ritchie sports Newcastle's new home kit after joining the Magpies yesterday

Rafa Benitez will switch his attentions to defensive recruits after Newcastle United splashed out £22million on Dwight Gayle and Matt Ritchie.

Striker Gayle, 25, has arrived from Crystal Palace in a deal worth up to £10million with Ritchie moving from AFC Bournemouth for £12million – both penning five-year deals at St James’s Park.

Both deals represent major coups for Benitez, with the pair agreeing to drop down a division in a bid to help Newcastle win promotion back to the Premier League.

And attention will now turn to bringing in defensive reinforcements.

Confirmation of captain Fabricio Coloccini’s departure to Argentine side San Lorenzo is imminent, with the 34-year-old bringing an end to an eight-year spell on Tyneside.

QPR centre-half Steven Caulker, Arsenal youngster Isaac Hayden and Blackburn Rovers’ Grant Hanley have all been linked as possible replacements as Benitez rebuilds his squad.

Gayle and winger Ritchie were two key pieces of the jigsaw.

Ritchie - signed to replace Andros Townsend who has joined Crystal Palace for £13million – has experience of winning the Championship title with Bournemouth.

And he insists he is up for the challenge of bringing top flight football back to Tyneside.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling to come to a football club like this,” said the 26-year-old Scotland international.

“It’s what you work hard for as a kid. You watch teams like Newcastle on the TV growing up, and it’s fantastic to be here and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.

“The potential of this football club with the manager, the dressing room, the squad that we have, I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting time and a really positive future for the football club.

“I like to think that I score goals and can create goals, and hopefully I can do that this season.

“I’m sure that’s what I’ve been brought here and hopefully we can achieve the aim of getting promoted back to the Premier League, where this club belongs.”

The fee is an initial £10million rising to £12million.

Having former Liverpool, Inter Milan and Real Madrid boss Benitez as manager was one of the key factors that persuaded Ritchie to drop down a division.

Ritchie has also played in the Championship with Portsmouth and he said having the right mentality is key ahead of a gruelling 46-game campaign.

“I think you can have a lot of quality in the group, but without the right mentality, the right work ethic, you can get cut adrift,” said Ritchie.

“We need to know that it’s going to be tough.

“It’s not going to be easy to get out of this league, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”

Benitez added: “He has great ability and pace, and as soon as we knew that Andros Townsend could be leaving, our priority was to finalise this deal.”