Chris Humphrey had set one of his career goals as getting to the Championship and establishing himself at that level.
The North End No.7 sat down for a long and rather cathartic interview with The One And Only after one of his latest comeback sessions last week and explained what this season has been like for him.
“It has been a very frustrating year,” began the 28-year-old. “This is my first time in the Championship, where I have been trying to get to my whole career. At Shrewsbury we had two pops at it; lost at Wembley twice, so to get the chance again at Preston and lose in the first year was hard. But then we finally did it, had all the excitement and good times and to only play two games has been tough.
“It has been a long road, but things happen for a reason.
“I wasn’t myself in those two games I played anyway. I played a lot of games last season, with Jamaica as well as Preston, and then went away with Jamaica to a hard tournament and got to the Final, so I ended up playing more games than I imagined. There was absolutely no rest and then I came straight back, did a short pre-season with Tom [Little, the fitness coach] and went straight into the games, so it was tough.
“For me, of course I didn’t want to be out as long as I have been out, but it was a time to have a rest and try and re-charge the batteries. Yes, it has been a whole season, but, as I have said, things happen for a reason. If this injury hadn’t come, I don’t think I would have been myself to be able to play the best that I can play and that’s all I want; it’s all the gaffer wants and it is all anyone wants – to see me playing at my best.
“I have had a chance now to work on things that I felt needed improving fitness wise; stamina wise and a chance to work on my hamstrings, to make that they are solid and I have worked on things to try and stop me getting little injuries when I am back. You see it a lot with people that their calf goes or their hamstring goes and it is very important for me to improve those, especially the hamstrings because of the sprints I do.
“It has been a case of working really hard.
“I have been fortunate, whilst not fortunate for him, to work wise Jermaine [Beckford] all the way through, so we have not been on our own or getting depressed. We have both helped each other through the tough times and that really helped me get through and I like to think I helped him get back too. He is back playing now and it is nice to see someone who has been injured for so long get such a good reception when he comes on.”
Over the past couple of seasons The One And Only has done loads of main interviews and we keep talking about the dressing room spirit and the atmosphere amongst the squad.
What we haven’t done is get to the bottom of exactly what that means, turning it into something tangible that supporters can understand and see and hear why we end up having it repeated in interviews and at press conferences by players and coaching staff.
Therefore we asked ‘Humph’ just that; what does it mean when everyone says there is a ‘great team spirit’?
“For me it means we have no big time players in our dressing room; as in people on thousands a week, so they think they own the place,” he continued. “If you have that then it brings on people saying ‘he’s got that, so I want to be on that’ and it brings friction into the dressing room – we don’t have any of that.
“We have no players with big egos who think they are ‘it’.
“What we have got is a changing room full of lads who want to play football, who love to play football and who die for football. They just want to go out and play their best every week.
“We have lads who will openly put their hands up if they have done something wrong after a game and say ‘I’m sorry, that is my fault and I will work so that doesn’t happen again. We have lads who stay after training and do extra and we have all of that in our dressing room and it is so important.
“The likes of Gally, Becks and Chris Kirkland are great people to have in the dressing room. Not only will they tell you when you have done something wrong, the most important thing for me is that they will also tell you when you have done something right. From a player’s point of view if you have players who only want to niggle around you it doesn’t help, but we have players here who know when they have done something wrong, but they also want to praise you as well and that lifts you and ups your game, which is very important.
“We also have a squad where everyone can’t play, but no one moans. That is so important.
“Everyone gets on with it; even the players not starting. Obviously you are not happy if you are not starting, but the team is winning. I always look at it as if the player in my position is doing well then why should I be moaning if I am not playing. If he is doing well I should appreciate that; it is for the team. If he is not doing well I will get my chance and then it is up to me to make sure I do well. The thing about the gaffer here is that if you do well, you stay in the team, he only changes it if people are tired and he needs to freshen it up. You know that if you get your chance, it is more than likely that you will stay there and that’s important as well. It keeps it competitive throughout the squad.
“It is a really place to be around and you just enjoy coming in every day and we need it to stay like that.”
There is a lot, lot more from Chris in our longest interview of the season in Saturday’s matchday programme. There are also interviews with Stevie May, Eoin Doyle, John Welsh and Alan Browne in our latest edition of The One And Only. We also have 11 pages of content about the visitors and much, much more crammed into the 84 pages of perfect bound content – on sale for just £3 from the Friday afternoon from the Club’s retail store or inside and outside the ground on matchday.