Ritchie Rich

Exposed Meets Ritchie Humphreys.

 

Last year, former Wednesday starlet Ritchie Humphreys had just been released by Hartlepool and was potentially coming to the end of his career.

Now, he’s just won the League with his new club Chesterfield, become the chairman of the PFA (presenting Eden Hazard with his award for Best Young Player at last month’s PFA Awards) and is now off to the World Cup. No, not as a player, but as part of the PFA delegation. He’s also mates with Exposed head honcho Phil Turner – so we caught up with him to get the lowdown on his ‘dream’ year and how he expected England to get on at the World Cup.

Portrait: Marc Barker

 

You’re 36 now and yet you’ve just signed a new contract at Chesterfield. Just how long can you keep going?

As long as possible. I’d never put a time limit on it – as long as my body’s up to it, and someone’s willing to give me a contract, I’ll keep playing.

 

This season must feel like a bit of bonus at this stage of your career. I bet you didn’t expect to win the league when you signed last year…

This time last summer I’d just been relegated and released from a club I’d been at for 12 years – and I didn’t know whether I was going to get a coaching job or a job out of football. So, signing for Chesterfield, and going onto play 45-50 games has been amazing. I went past 600 league games, 700 professional games, became PFA chairman, got promoted and won the league – it’s more than a bonus, I think.

 

You started out at Sheffield Wednesday – so do you still look out for their results?

Yes, both Sheffield clubs, really. Obviously I played for Wednesday – but I watched United as a kid and I’ve got friends and family on both sides of the city. I know I’m sitting on the fence but what I would say is that I would like us as a city to get one, if not both teams, back into the Premiership one day.

 

As part of your dream season, you became PFA Chairman this year. How’d that come about?

Every club has a delegate – so there’s 92 in total plus some from the conference – and I was that delegate for a number of years at Hartlepool. Then there’s a management committee of 12 that meets four times a year on a voluntary basis and goes through all the issues, accounts and puts our views across. From that committee there’s a chairman who has to be a current player – so when Clarke Carlisle retired I was delighted the lads elected me.

 

You must have been busy recently with all the talk about the FA Commission’s recommendations to form a new league featuring B teams from Premier League…

Well, I’m there to gauge to the view of 4000 current members, rather than giving my own opinion – so it wasn’t too bad. What’s come out are ideas, recommendations and a menu for debate, and there’s lots more to come – mainly about grass roots facilities and how we can improve coaching. They’re the two crucial parts of it. Our country is unique in that we have the most professional football clubs, most professional players and highest attendances in the world. B teams have worked in other countries where they don’t have such a strong league structure – so we don’t want that being broken. But we have to come up with a solution… or what was the point in having a commission?

 

Ok. Onto the World Cup. What’s your first memory of it?

My dad bought me a World Cup book for Spain 1982 with the squads in. But I really remember 1986 with Lineker and the Golden Boot and Maradona and the Hand of God. But that first goal he scored in that game was sensational – probably the best goal you’ll ever see on that stage.

 

Was that part of you falling in love with football?

There wasn’t as much football on TV back then – so World Cups and FA Cup Finals were massive events. And at that age I can remember all the details; Norman Whiteside curling it around Neville Southall in 1985, Dave Beasant saving the penalty in 1988 – I loved it.

 

 

If you were a kid now do you think you’d still get as excited as you did at that age?

It’s hard to say – but probably. I know I’m excited now and I’m 36! With the squad Roy’s picked I’m eager to see how we’ll do. There isn’t that great expectancy of the past where we think we can get to the semis or go on and win it – but with these young players in the squad, we’ve got a batch through that everyone’s shouting about without putting too much pressure on.

We saw in the later qualifying games when someone like Andros Townsend came through and played without fear and then this year we’ve seen players like Barkley, Sterling and Lallana all doing well. I mean, it wasn’t long ago I was playing against Lallana and Lambert in League One and League Two and that brings back how good football can be – it should give anyone belief that if they keep working hard you can get to the top. With Lallana, you could tell he was a class apart, but he’s actually excelling even more in the top division because he’s playing with better players and there’s more space. I saw him at the PFA Awards and had a quick chat with him. I think it’s great that we’ve got this group of younger players that might just grow together as a squad.

 

Who would you expect to excel this year outside of England?

People have questioned whether Messi can do it on the big stage – but if he had a good World Cup that would establish him as an all-time great. I wouldn’t look past any of the South American teams for a winner. Brazil are playing at home, Argentina, Uruguay – and Spain will cause problems for teams.

But I love watching Ronaldo. Sometimes when you’ve got that one truly world class player that can turn a game, whether it’s carrying a ball from one end of the pitch or hitting a free kick in from 30 yards, that can be what it takes. He’s an absolute class act and is a great example for younger players in terms of how he made himself better.

 

I know you’ll be in Brazil for much of the World Cup but, if you were back in Sheffield, where would you choose to watch the games?

It’s been a while but I remember watching the Germany game at Euro ‘96 at Champs and then ended up in The Leadmill. Then in ’98 when we got knocked out by Argentina on penalties we were in The Forum. The Common Room’s good for football or The Bowery – I’d happily go there.

 

 

Watch a (very) young Ritchie score one of his best goals in a Wednesday shirt:

 

 

The highs and lows of Humphs.

1996

Signs for Sheffield Wednesday and goes onto play 72 times, scoring 8 goals. Also represents his country at under 20 and under 21 level, alongside a certain Michael Owen, wearing the number 9 shirt at the 1997 FIFA Under 20 World Cup.

2001

After a brief loan spell at Cambridge he joins Hartlepool United making a record 544 appearances and picking up numerous club awards, including two Player of the Year awards from fans, one Player of the Year award from his teammates, as well as the award for Player of the Decade (2000s).

He’s also named in the PFA Team of the Year twice, helping the club win promotion out of the fourth tier in 2002–03 and again in 2006–07.

2013/14

After Hartlepool are relegated from League One, Ritchie signs with Chesterfield and becomes a mainstay at left back in their title-winning team, picking up the Outstanding Achievement Award at the end of their season awards. Re-signs for another year.




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