Ritchie: Lockdown is bittersweet
Matt Ritchie has admitted lockdown is proving to be a bittersweet experience as the country continues to stay at home and observe social distancing measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 30-year-old has been isolating with his wife and two children at the family home in the South West - along with a growing list of animals including four hourses, two sheep and a brood of chickens.
Ritchie has been splitting his days between running, cycling and gym work as he looks to retain his fitness, as well as spending time with his household and getting his hands dirty as he tends to his livestock.
Ritchie has continued his running in a local forest during lockdown
"Lockdown is bittersweet," he told nufc.co.uk via a video call. "Like everyone else, I’m trying to make the best of it.
"I’m getting to spend time with my family and enjoy things at home that normally I don’t really get time to.
"Usually it’s during the summer break and only for a short period of time, so I’m making the most of a bad situation.
"I’m getting involved with the animals, which I really enjoy.
"And when I was a kid, my grandad was a chippy (joiner) so I’ve been pottering in my own shed, making shelves and little things like that.
"But I hope something like this doesn’t happen again because these are very uncertain times."
Just a week before the club closed its training base as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus on Friday 13th March, news was breaking about a new contract for the Hampshire-born winger, which will keep him at St. James’ Park until summer 2023.
Ritchie (r) with Steve Bruce and Jonjo Shelvey after signing a new deal
And despite the much-loved family time, Ritchie admits he is missing Tyneside and stepping out in black and white in front of a packed stadium.
"As much as there are lots of things at home that you enjoy, there are things at the club that you miss at the same time, for sure," he said.
"The feeling you get from winning together, from playing with that pressure.
"You go out at three o'clock on a Saturday and have the pressure to perform, to get three points and to have success - you can’t replace that with anything.
Ritchie alongside captain Jamaal Lascelles at St. James' Park
"The feeling, the atmosphere, even the smell. At this time of year especially, the grass has been cut, the sprinklers are on. It’s that unique feeling of being at a football ground.
"I’ve also missed going into the Training Ground and seeing the lads, popping in the offices. You can’t replace it."
'Key workers should be proud'
As football awaits news of a potential return, Ritchie has echoed calls for everyone to stick to government guidance around social distancing - and he has reserved special praise for those who are keeping the country moving.
"It’s so important to follow the guidance," he added. "It can be spread easily and the figures of people getting it are unbelievable.
"If people can stay at home and abide by the rules, hopefully we can come out of the other side of it quicker than people might hope or expect.
"For the people who are still working and who are providing for their communities, it really is an unbelievable thing and it’s something they should all be proud of.
"The NHS is something we’re all really pleased to support and as players, the #PlayersTogether campaign is something we’re proud to be part of.
"People in supermarkets who are seeing hundreds of people every day, delivery drivers, postmen and women. They’re trying to keep things going and to keep some normality.
"I extend a big thank you to all of them."
Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
For the latest official advice, please visit gov.uk/coronavirus.