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Life after lockdown at NUFC - from disinfected balls to 3 Covid-19 tests a week

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Matt Ritchie has offered some in-depth insight to life after lockdown at Newcastle United - insisting that Toon players now find themselves in a "privileged position".

The winger and his team-mates are currently in phase one of Project Restart with the squad split into small groups and training in separate corners of Benton's training ground.

Premier League balls are sprayed regularly with disinfectant causing them to affect the touch of the players but Ritchie is not complaining.

Ritchie said: "We did a dribbling exercise, my run was all over the place, the ball was a little bit sticky but I'm not sure if that was down to no water on the surface or the disinfectant."

However, after weeks of uncertainty and training, Ritchie is just happy to be back to work.

He said: "You could tell by everybody's faces when they showed up what it meant. We're still in small groups of threes and fours on the pitch in corners of pitches.

"But you can tell by the look on people's faces the lads are buzzing to be there.

"Hopefully we can get players in a safe environment as soon as possible. We've tried to keep some structure.

"The fitness coach at our place has been brilliant by sending us programmes every Monday. By the look of it, the lads have stuck to it.

"We're in a good position. The biggest challenge has been motivating yourself when you need to get on your treadmill or going for a run, that is the hardest.

"It's something I enjoy personally."

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The next step for Newcastle's squad is to get to phase two of the Premier League guidelines which is contact with team-mates in the shape of small-sided games.

Ritchie is just happy to be back to work. He said: "It would be great for the world.

"It was good to see the German league back on and if we can get our league back in a safe environment it will be good for everybody.

"The procedure put in place is unbelievable.

"We are in a privileged position now as we are probably the safest in the country along with NHS staff.

"We are getting tested three times a week until the government and Premier League say it's safe to move on to phase two.

"The biggest thing now is we need a date to move on and work towards.

"That is the difficult thing for the manager and staff because with no date in mind it's difficult to know how to work the lads."

Christian Atsu laughs (Image: Newcastle United via Getty Images)

United's first game back in action since March could be the home game with Sheffield United, a game in which the Magpies were looking to all but seal their top-flight place for next season.

Ritchie was asked his thoughts on playing behind closed doors and, speaking to Talksport, said: "It would be strange.

"Even now it's good to be back and I'm delighted but it's a strange feeling around the place.

"Even if you go to the shop it's not the same feeling and I don't think it will be for a long time.

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"Everybody is going to have to adapt and make small changes.

"When there's no fans in the stadium it's something the players just have to handle."

Ritchie feels the mood in the camp is good and there is hope of a strong finish to the season.

When asked what life under Steve Bruce has been like this term, he said: "When he came in he got some stick.

"He's got so much experience and the lads have really taken to him.

"We beat Southampton the week before (lockdown) and it took us away from the scrap at the bottom.

"Hopefully we can kick on and do well."

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