Matt Ritchie comeback can re-ignite the Newcastle spark that has faded  
ROCHDALE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04: Matt Ritchie of Newcastle United (11)  returns from injury during the FA Cup Third Round match between Rochdale AFC and Newcastle United at Spotland Stadium on January 04, 2020 in Rochdale, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)

Replacing Yoshinori Muto in the second half, Matt Ritchie had to run the width of the field to occupy his left wing-back position, right in front of the Newcastle United supporters who offered a warm welcome. 

It was the Scots' first minutes since August, and whilst Steve Bruce would have ideally liked to introduce him with the game all but won, it had to be during the tense stages of the FA Cup tie. 

Much needed boost 

After a horrid Christmas period that has not only seen United take zero points but also a number of injuries to key players, Ritchie's return to the first team can give the squad a refreshing boost. 

His counterpart Jetro Willems has impressed since his summer arrival, but with the volume of games he's played has no doubt led to his recent groin problem.

It makes Ritchie's return perfect timing with some important games coming up, and his resilient character could play a big role against some sides nearer the top end of the table. 

Fitting the team's strengths 

It's been a shame for Newcastle that arguably their best crosser of a ball has been missing.

The lack of delivery has often meant that the likes of Miguel Almiron and Allan Saint-Maximin have had to carry the ball directly, which hasn't always suited Andy Carroll up front on his own.

If Ritchie, who has 19 Premier League assists to his name, can takeover set-piece duty then maybe a different threat can be provided? 

The 30-year-old made the wing-back position his own last season, and after the last few games, it's been evident his side need to get back to their defensive sturdiness. 

If Ritchie can find full match fitness, then perhaps he could provide the X-Factor at both ends of the pitch for Newcastle.