Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 11 December 2019

Rafa Benitez exit a surprise says Newcastle midfielder Matt Ritchie

Newcastle have approached Steve Bruce, who has reportedly resigned as manager of Sheffield Wednesday

Rafa Benitez left his position at Newcastle after the expiration of his contract on June 30. Reuters
Rafa Benitez left his position at Newcastle after the expiration of his contract on June 30. Reuters

Newcastle United midfielder Matt Ritchie said on Tuesday that he was "surprised" and "disappointed" to see manager Rafael Benitez leave the Premier League crisis club.

Newcastle have approached Steve Bruce over the vacancy and the former Manchester United defender has reportedly resigned as manager of Sheffield Wednesday.

But the time is ticking down to Newcastle's Premier League opener on August 11 and the club has lost key players, while also in limbo over the managerial hot seat.

Newcastle fans were furious that unpopular club owner Mike Ashley failed to retain the hugely popular Benitez, who has since moved to China as coach of Dalian Yifang.

Newcastle are now among the favourites for relegation - Benitez was widely praised for steering the northeast club to a 13th-placed finish last term.

Speaking in Nanjing ahead of the Premier League Asia Trophy, the 29-year-old Ritchie said: "To see the manager leave was disappointing because he had a good reign with the club.

"But it was a decision made between the manager and the club owners so it's out of our hands.

"Now we have to look forward to a new manager and a new season."

Benitez's departure last month was particularly galling for Ritchie because it was the former Liverpool manager who recruited him from Bournemouth in 2016.

"I was surprised, I thought he was going to stay," Ritchie said.

"But he didn't and you have to move on as a club and as individuals and I am sure the new manager will come in with new ideas and I'm looking forward to that."

Ritchie, perhaps mindful that Newcastle fans have made clear they do not want life-long fan Bruce at the club, added: "The key thing is that we have to create a togetherness from top to bottom and everyone pulling in the same direction.

"With that I am sure we can have success."

Newcastle, who have seen Ayoze Perez move to Leicester City, Salomon Rondon return to West Bromwich Albion and Joselu join Alaves, play Wolverhampton Wanderers on Wednesday.

The other match in the mini pre-season tournament is between Premier League champions Manchester City and West Ham United.

Ben Dawson, Newcastle's academy head of coaching, and Under 23s head coach Neil Redfearn are overseeing pre-season work in the Far East.

Dawson said he was awaiting news like everyone else on who will take over from Benitez, although all the signs point to Bruce, a former coach of fiere rivals Sunderland.

"Obviously all we can do is focus on the job out here," Dawson said. "We will wait and see, we are just taking it day by day.

"We are not sure when news will come."

Updated: July 16, 2019 03:01 PM

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