Matt Ritchie glad to get over shaky start

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MATT Ritchie admits he suffered a bout of opening-night jitters on his Scotland debut but is hopeful he still managed to convince Gordon Strachan he is worthy of an extended run on the international stage.

The Bournemouth winger overcame a shaky start at Hampden on Wednesday to finish the evening on a high note as he provided the assist for Christophe Berra’s 85th-minute winner against Northern Ireland.

Matt Ritchie notched an assist on his Scotland debut. Picture: John Devlin

Matt Ritchie notched an assist on his Scotland debut. Picture: John Devlin

It was a memorable occasion for Ritchie whose family, including his Edinburgh-born father to whom he owes his eligibility for Scotland, were in attendance at the national stadium.

“It’s been brilliant, a great experience all week,” said Ritchie. “The whole squad has been great with me since I got here.

“I was delighted with the win on my debut. I was nervous in the first half and you could tell that. I wasn’t my usual self on the ball but in the second half I came onto my game.

“We missed chances in the first half but in the second half we were patient, both individually and as a team, and we managed to get the goal.

“As I say, I was disappointed with how I played at first, but much happier after the break. I’m hard on myself and put pressure on myself all the time. So to set up the goal gave me a little boost in confidence.

“It’s down to the manager whether I keep my place in the team against Gibraltar on Sunday. If he chooses me, then great. If not, then I’m hopeful my first cap will still be the first of many for Scotland.

“All of my family were there on Wednesday night – my mum, dad and missus from down south, and also my aunts and uncles from Scotland. It was definitely a proud moment for all of us.”

When Ritchie joined up with Strachan’s squad last Sunday, it was the first time in his life that he had been in Scotland. But the Portsmouth-born 25-year-old is not concerned by anyone who may doubt the depth of his commitment to the land of his father.

“People are entitled to have their views but my dad is Scottish and I’m half-Scottish,” added Ritchie. “Yes, I was born in England but I’m half-Scottish. It’s been a proud occasion for me and my dad and I’m sure he’ll have a smile on his face for a while.”

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