Preston North End midfielder Chris Humphrey acknowledges that representing Jamaica in the off-season was an ‘unbelievable experience’ as well as a learning curve for the 26-year-old.
Humphrey featured in all four of the Reggae Boyz’ games over the summer and played the full 90 minutes in their impressive 2-2 draw against seven time African Cup of Nation winners Egypt at the Matchroom Stadium, London.
The Jamaican also clocked up a fair few air miles whilst travelling with the Caribbean side, flying to the likes of America, Switzerland and France - all in the space of two weeks.
And after finally having the chance to reflect on his football after several weeks off, the former Motherwell man admits the experience was an invaluable one.
“It was an absolute pleasure to play against some of the world’s best footballers,” said North End’s wide man in an exclusive interview with PNE.Com.
“Firstly, playing against Serbia meant having the privilege of playing against [Alexsandar] Kolorov – it was nice to say that before the game, but during the game, it was hard!
“We played Switzerland as well with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, and they used the same team in the World Cup to the one we played against so that was amazing.
“Then, we took on Egypt who were a strong side as well but the last game against France was the best of the lot.
“They had their full team out – the likes of [Paul] Pogba, [Blaise] Matuidi, [Patrice] Evra, [Karim] Benzema, and [Mathieu] Valbuena which was unbelievable.
“We lost 8-0, but it was such an experience to say I’ve played against them, and with the way they played in the World Cup, 8-0 doesn’t seem as bad, because they beat Switzerland 5-2 so I’m not as depressed as I was about that!”
Humphrey was first called up to the Reggae Boyz in 2011, but it’s been his move to Lancashire where he’s really started to find recognition on the International front, and he admits that playing in Jamaican colours can only benefit his development as a footballer.
“I’ve learnt so much from those four games, and hopefully that will help me throughout the season,” continued Humphrey.
“In League One, you get a bit more time on the ball, whereas at International level, the way these teams play, they’re ruthless and hardly give you a moment to think on the ball.
“I said to [Patrice] Evra half way through the game ‘stop running at me’ and he said ‘no chance, I’m getting ready for the World Cup!’ and as soon as he said that, you knew you were in for a bad day.
“But despite the defeats, it’s really helped me develop as a player, and I can only thank the gaffer for playing me and bringing me here because my International career didn’t kick start until this point.
“Now I’ve played most of my games for Jamaica since I’ve been here, and I can only thank the club for that.”
The hard work starts all over again now for Preston’s number seven, after returning to training last week.
Although Humphrey is never one to enjoy running for miles on the training ground, the midfielder acknowledges that it’s part and parcel of the game – but is still hoping that pre-season will have an entertaining twist, just like the previous off-season.
“I hate every second of pre-season!” joked Humphrey.
“It’s strange because put me on a football pitch and I’ll run all day, but on the training ground it’s a lot harder for me, but it’s part of the game, and all the benefits will come in a month or so, and that’s what gets you through these first few weeks.
“In truth, last season with Lamby [Adrian Lamb] I actually enjoyed pre-season – he made it enjoyable, and we didn’t have to run ridiculous lengths - it was short, sharp, and hard.
“The gaffer’s told us he’s going to make it enjoyable, so it sounds like it’s going to be like that, but we’ve had our time off now, and it’s time to get down to the hard work.”
Manager Simon Grayson has already added to the ranks with five new signings already in the close season - and with Humphrey arriving in PR1 only last year, driving into Springfields for the first time is still fresh in the memory for the winger.
On the players that have been brought in by Grayson, Humphrey added: “I’ve noticed with the gaffer he brings in people with the right attitude, personalities and egos.
“I’ve been in some teams where there are big egos and it disrupts the camp, but everyone here is on the same wave length – they’re happy to be here, and it’s all about the team.
“People aren’t here for themselves or playing for themselves, everyone is playing for each other, which is why we had some success last year, and I think we’ll get even more success this season.”