Ritchie 'optimistic' Benitez will stay at Newcastle

Having kept the Magpies in the Premier League for the second season in a row, Benitez is out of contract in the summer, but Ritchie thinks he'll stay

Newcastle wide-man Matt Ritchie remains "optimistic" that manager Rafa Benitez will sign a new contact and remain at the club, believing the Magpies can look forward with "hope" if he does. 

Benitez has been at loggerheads with owner Mike Ashley over a number of issues, including transfer funds and the future of the club's training facilities. 

The stalemate has so far prevented Benitez from being offered a new contract to replace his current deal, which runs out on June 30.

However, ahead of face-to-face talks between Benitez and Ashley that are scheduled for this week, Ritchie says he's confident that the Spaniard will remain in the north-east next season and beyond. 

"I don't really want to talk about that because I don't think we're going to [lose him],” the former Bournemouth winger told Chronicle Live.

“I'm optimistic that he will stay; I hope he stays, everyone hopes he stays. There is no point talking about ifs and buts, as we don't know yet, let's just wait and see.”

Following Newcastles’ 4-0 thrashing of Fulham on Sunday, Benitez reiterated his desire to resolve his future "as soon as possible". 

And although managing director Lee Charnley has stressed that Newcastle want the 59-year-old to remain at St. James’ Park, Benitez is seeking assurances before he signs on the dotted line.

After leading a fairly threadbare squad to Premier League safety for two successive seasons, the former Liverpool boss is immensely popular amongst both Newcastle fans and players. 

And when asked if the players wanted Benitez to stay, Ritchie admitted they were 100 per cent behind him.  

"Yeah of course. It's out of our hands," he said. "We can't affect it but it is down to the manager and the board.

“There is no secret the manager has been fantastic since he has arrived. 

“Hopefully he can stay and we can continue to create a good team, and look forward to the future with hope.”

Newcastle’s win at Fulham brought the Magpies to 45 points - one more than the previous campaign - and lifted them up to 13th place, earning them an additional £1.9million in prize money in the process.

“I think this team deserved it," said the Scotland international. "What a performance on the final day when playing for nothing."