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Often when a team finds itself in Newcastle United’s position, there is a standout player for sure. A fan’s favourite rather. Someone who is universally recognised as their best player. This is not the case at the Toon this season though.
The two obvious names, from a national and international perspective, are Jonjo Shelvey and Dwight Gayle. Shelvey is clearly a Premier League player and has made Newcastle tick. He is constantly taking the team forward when in possession and has even had to carry the entire midfield for large parts of the season.
Shelvey may even harbour hopes of being involved in England’s World Cup Squad in Russia next year and has been labelled by some as the best player to have ever played in the Championship. High praise indeed.
Gayle’s admirers come from a more obvious place; he’s a goal scorer. Netting 23 goals despite missing parts of the promotion campaign is impressive and he is someone who seems to have the knack of finding himself in goal scoring positions constantly. Without his goals, Newcastle would not have gone up.
If you ask people around Newcastle though, you may be surprised at how many people name Ciaran Clark as their player of the year. The Toon’s best defender this season, their bad run which looked to have handed the title to Brighton, coincided with him being injured and predictably their form improved when he returned. He will get his chance once again to prove he is a Premier League player and time will tell if this is to be the case.
The thing these three players all have in common though is that they all missed significant chunks of the season through injury or suspension. They may argue there was little they could do about that. However, if someone didn’t play at all, could you even consider them to be named as the player of the season? You couldn’t and so the name we throw at you is the ultra-busy, ultra-consistent MATT RITCHIE.
The former Bournemouth winger has been a constant thorn in the side of any opposition of Newcastle and immediately made himself a crowd favourite last summer. His fitness is admirable; 48 appearances for the club averaging over 81 minutes a game are a testament to his commitment. He just keeps turning out and putting in energetic performances against any opposition. Only Paul Dummett and Jamaal Lascelles have played more Championship minutes than Magical Matt.
Then there’s his quality. His 12 league goals mean he is Newcastle’s second-top scorer behind Gayle and his 7 assists in the division put him second behind Shelvey as a provider. Only Gayle (no.9) has more shots per game than the Scotland international and only Shelvey provides more key passes per match. In fact, Ritchie seems to be the second best at everything! The fact though that he manages to be one of the better players across a range of areas and has done it all season long means that nobody has been more valuable to the Toon than him this season.