AFTER helping to secure a win at Leicester City that effectively secured Premier League football again next season, Matt Ritchie feels Newcastle United deserve greater acknowledgement for what they have achieved.

Much has been made for more than a year of the Magpies’ ambitions, or lack of them, under owner Mike Ashley, with question marks hanging over whether he wants to take the club because he is widely known to have been looking for a buyer.

There is sure to be top level discussions centred on exactly that situation in the weeks and months ahead on Tyneside, particularly because Rafa Benitez is seeking assurances before extending a deal that is due to expire at the end of the season.

Ashley is also known to be still open to the idea of selling up, and he would consider fresh approaches from previous interested parties like Peter Kenyon if serious interest can be proved. But Benitez has worked wonders to keep Newcastle up on limited spending and Friday’s victory at seventh-placed Leicester means that plans can now start in earnest for the summer and beyond.

There is still a belief that Newcastle can finish strongly and climb further up the table, even if it looks unlikely that they can secure tenth spot for the second year in a row.  Ritchie, the Newcastle winger who supplied the cross for Ayoze Perez’s winner on Friday, is delighted with what has been achieved, even if it doesn’t compare to the Champions League chasing periods under Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson.

“I’m not sure we get the credit we deserve,” said Ritchie. “I think everyone involved at this club deserves credit. I understand the glory days of Keegan and Robson, I understand that everyone keeps looking back. I’m not saying that we don’t aspire to that, obviously we do.  “We want to be the best players and the best group we can possibly be. The manager will always say he wants to strengthen and the players are the same, we want to be competing for our places and we understand that’s football.  “You want to finish as high as you possibly can, individually and as a team. But you can’t take anything for granted in the Premier League. From the top six down, anyone can be 12th or tenth or eighth or 18th.  “It’s the bounce of the ball here or there. We didn’t win a game for the first ten games of the season and everyone wrote us off. Everyone had us relegated, no chance, but now, all of a sudden, we look like a good side.”

Newcastle are ten points above the bottom three with four matches remaining, although Cardiff do have an extra game. The performance at Leicester was hugely satisfying after back-to-back defeats to Arsenal and Crystal Palace, but Ritchie does not think anything can guarantee an easy ride next season.

He said: “People talk about not wanting to be in this position again, but that’s naïve when you’re talking about the Premier League. It’s a frustrating one. I understand, and as players you want to achieve great things, but you have to be realistic.  “Other than the top six, every team can be in the relegation mix. Everton spent £100m last season, but with ten games to go, they were still in trouble. From the top six down, anyone can be in a relegation battle, anyone.  “Whether they get a bad start or a bad run, you have to be realistic. The top six or seven might have that bit more, but the rest of the league is so close. This year, there’s a little bit more of a gap, but so many clubs can end up in trouble.  “We’re seen as not spending money, but spending money is no guarantee. We’re competing. We only came up a couple of years ago, and last season we retained our Premier League status. Hopefully, this season, if we continue to play like we did at Leicester, we can get a few more points and finish close to where we did last season.”

Ritchie has been a huge performer for Newcastle, proving why he deserved to stay and command a first team spot after a couple of windows when it was being suggested he could be sold. He has benefitted from playing wing-back and his cross for Perez’s fine header at Leicester was exactly the sort of quality he possesses down the flanks.  Ritchie recalls the poor start to the campaign when tensions grew and fears were strong relegation could return to St James’ Park after failing to win until November 3 when they defeated Watford.

The Scotland international said: “In the first ten games of the season, everyone was writing us off. But we knew we were so close to good performances and good results, we just needed a little bit of luck and a little bit of the rub of the green.  “If we got that, we knew we could get three points rather than a point or not getting anything. Tottenham at home on the first day of the season seems like a lifetime ago now. The season brings you so many ups and downs, so to get to this point, on 38 points, is fantastic. We’re looking up."