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Newcastle close in on Emil Krafth as Matt Ritchie defends ‘honest’ Ashley

 Swedish right-back set to complete £5m move from Amiens 
 Ritchie says he ‘does not understand’ Newcastle fan unrest

Emil Krafth was due to have a medical on Tyneside on Wednesday. Photograph: Anna Gowthorpe/BPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Newcastle’s long pursuit of a right-back appears to be reaching a conclusion with Sweden’s Emil Krafth close to completing a £5m move from Amiens.

The 25-year-old was expected to have a medical on Tyneside on Wednesday and providing the formalities proceed as planned, Krafth, formerly with Helsingborg and Bologna, should be in the squad for Sunday’s Premier League home game against Arsenal.

These signings have so far failed to pacify certain supporter groups dismayed by Rafael Benítez’s resignation and Mike Ashley’s stewardship of the club, not to mention being generally underwhelmed by Bruce’s appointment.

Many fans are planning to boycott the Arsenal game with some intending to join a city-centre protest march from Ashley’s Sports Direct store in Northumberland Street to St James’ Park before kick-off.

This explains why comments from Matt Ritchie in a radio interview have caused considerable consternation. The Scotland winger, expected to miss Arsenal’s visit owing to a hamstring strain, said he “did not understand” the unrest and urged all supporters to unite and get behind the team. Moreover Ritchie made the contentious claim that Ashley had been “honest and upfront” but it appears his comments reflect a dressing-room consensus.

Matt Ritchie said fan, staff and players at Newcastle all needed to be ‘pulling in the same direction’. Photograph: Ian MacNicol/Getty Images

“I don’t understand the unrest, I’ve got to be honest,” said Ritchie, formerly of Bournemouth. “The club’s gone out, spent money. We’re pushing, trying to compete with the teams we can compete with and you have to be real.

“To compete at the top of the Premier League now is mega money – I think the owner has been honest in his interviews in the press and said he can’t go and compete with them.

“He’s been upfront about that; to do that [compete at the top] he would have to sell the club. For me we have to all be in this together.

“I’ve said this since I arrived. There’s always been a little bit of unrest but the main thing I took from Bournemouth, and it’s a smaller club I know but everyone was pulling in the same direction with the same philosophy, mentality and desire to help one another. That’s what we need to be here – the fans, the staff and the playing staff all as one and pulling in the same direction.

“It’s something I’m really passionate about. If we’re all in this together, we can be a lot stronger. From the word go on Sunday we need the fans to support the team and be with us.”

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