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SWINDON TOWN: Ritchie ready for Portsmouth homecoming
MATT Ritchie will be doing his best to block out all the emotion of returning to boyhood club Portsmouth when he steps out on the Fratton Park pitch this evening.
The winger grew up supporting Pompey before signing to their academy at the age of 13, and went on to make 10 appearances for the south coast side after making his debut in the Premier League away at Wigan in 2010.
The 23-year-old will have a host of Portsmouth supporting friends and family in the crowd tonight as he goes up against his boyhood club for the first time, and although he has plenty of happy memories from his time at the club, he is determined to take the bragging rights.
“I’m excited about it even though it will probably be a little bit strange for me,” he said.
“I signed my scholarship and I was around the club since I was six or seven years old, but time moves on and other players have moved on too.
“It is a bit different now because I have been away from the club for a while and it is not like I have only moved in the summer, and I was out on loan a lot of the time I was there.
“But I do have a lot of friends and family that support Portsmouth and they will be at the game.
“I have tried to cut out all the banter to concentrate on the game, but I have got a few texts from people saying good luck and things like that.
“I have been a bit rude so that I can concentrate on the football, and I need to do the simple things well and come away with the points.”
Ritchie still remembers the goalless draw at Wigan well, and credits his early years at Fratton Park as playing a major part in where he finds himself today.
“My debut will always be special even if I didn’t expect it, but Portsmouth were in a little bit of trouble at the time,” he said.
“Avram Grant gave a couple of us young lads a chance at Wigan, and it was probably due to the fact the club was in a little bit of trouble at the time.
“I will always thank the club and everyone at the club at the time for what happened in my early days at Portsmouth, and those times have played a massive part in the player I am now.
“So for that reason I am looking forward to going back there now although I want to come away with the three points.”
Portsmouth’s well documented financial problems mean all the players Ritchie grew up alongside have been forced to move on, but the Town midfielder is hopeful the club will soon be back on the road to better things.
“The problems they have had down there have been well documented, and it is a tough situation for everyone,” he said.
“I am sure they have good people and the right people in there now, and they have good fans and good people behind the scenes and I am sure it will be sorted for the better.
“It is sad to see people lose their jobs and players having to leave, but football is a hard business and if it isn’t going right on the pitch or things are not run properly in the background it catches up on you.
“But the manager seems very good down there and he has got a very good set of players, and I am sure the people at the club will sort it.”