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Matt Ritchie: Newcastle winger on managing farm animals in lockdown

Matt Ritchie bought two lambs for his four-year-old son, Harry

Matt Ritchie isn’t your average footballer - while many Premier League stars are stuck at home during lockdown in the afternoon playing computer games, the Newcastle midfielder is 325 miles away from Tyneside tending to his farm animals on the south coast.

In fact, Ritchie was so keen to give his young family a new focus during the pandemic that he bought two lambs for his four-year-old son Harry.

Now the Ritchie family have added feeding the sheep to their strict daily routine in New Forest, near Bournemouth.

The Newcastle winger told Sky Sports News: "I've actually really enjoyed my time at home so far. We have space in the forest where we live and we have a bit of land with horses, sheep and other animals.

"My little man was desperate for a sheep after he saw a little lamb at my mate's farm a few months ago. It was called George, and he kept going on about it for weeks on end.

"Due to lockdown we couldn't have a birthday party for Harry so I decided to go and get George for him instead. We ended up getting him two lambs - and Harry has called them both George!

"We got him them on the proviso he looked after them out in the field but that hasn't really happened and I'm the one that has been out feeding them sheep nuts in the mornings and then setting them out to the field later in the day.

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"These last six weeks have proved [farming is] not for me - so I'd still love to get into football management further down the line"
Matt Ritchie

"He's going to have to step up to the plate once I return to football in Newcastle. Lets see how he gets on without me.

"I've always thought being a farmer would be a nice life but it's hard when you have to do it seven days a week. It's harder than you think.

"These last six weeks have proved it's not for me - so I'd still love to get into football management further down the line."

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Scotland international Matt Ritchie says he's delighted to be staying at Newcastle after recently signing a new contract with the club until the summer of 2023

Before then Ritchie has to finish a career that's improved year-on-year since he broke through at Portsmouth 12 years ago.

And he's still got plenty in the tank after recently signing a contract extension that will keep him at St James' Park until 2023.

Despite being at the complete opposite end of the country Ritchie has bought into life on Tyneside.

He added: "I've had a great time since I signed for Newcastle. I've enjoyed the pressure of playing for such a huge football club and everyone has been fantastic with me since I signed.

"We had been speaking about a new contract for a while so I was delighted to commit my future.

"To be a Newcastle player the minimum you have to do is give everything, but hopefully the fans can see I bring some quality at times, too.

Newcastle United's Jonjo Shelvey celebrates scoring his side's third goal of the game with Matt Ritchie (left) during the FA Cup, third round match at St James' Park, Newcastle
Image: Ritchie is affectionately nicknamed 'Mr Angry' by those at Newcastle

"I love everyone at the club even though they think I am 'Mr Angry'. I called Thommo the kitman the other day to ask how he was. He instantly thought I was ringing to ask for a pair of socks! I had to assure him I was phoning to check up on him.

"He's one of the guys that have been there for years and they are in the fabric of the place. It's a strange feeling not seeing them for now but we need to take this opportunity and make the best of it and embrace the time with your family."

The 'Mr Angry' title was encapsulated perfectly when the former Scotland international booted a corner flag as he and his team-mates celebrated Isaac Hayden's late winner against Chelsea back in January.

The flag pole took one bounce off the turf and hit an unsuspecting Newcastle fan where it hurts, cutting short his own celebrations.

The clip went viral, and the supporter was interviewed live on Sky Sports News the following day.

Ritchie smiled: "I'm not on social media so the lads had to show me the clip at training. I had no idea what I had done at the time.

"I actually asked Lee, the club press officer to apologise to the fan and the club put something out on Twitter.

"It was one of those unfortunate things. Let's hope he has recovered okay. But I can assure him it was a freak accident and the last thing I intended.

"You say he quite enjoyed the coverage he got? Well that's a mad Geordie for you!

"I'm honestly not angry all the time. I have been chilled for the last six weeks on lockdown with our routine at home."

That is until the sheep aren't fed on time…

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