COLIN COOPER today paid tribute Hartlepool United legend Ritchie Humphreys and insisted he could have stayed at Victoria Park.
Humphreys makes his first appearance at the Vic since leaving his beloved Pools when he arrives with promotion favourites Chesterfield tomorrow.
Despite the club’s relegation last summer, the age of the Player of the Century and the departure of close ally, Michael Barron, there was still some surprise that Humphreys’ incredible journey with Pools ended.
But Cooper insists the club’s record appearance-maker was not forced out.
“I offered him a role here,” said the 47-year-old.
“Ritchie’s thing was that his wife was due another baby and he wanted to be closer to home [Sheffield],
“Chesterfield came in and he’s had smashing season with them, to the extent that he’s been offered a new contract there which is fantastic for him.
“With him living in Sheffield and not too far away to Chesterfield, it gives him the chance to spend more time with his family each day.
“He’s a smashing lad who served this football club fantastically well.
“He was offered a chance to stay and chose a different path and doing that has reinvigorated his career this year.”
Humphreys joined Chesterfield after a successful trial period at the Proact Stadium.
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And far from being just a squad player, the 37-year-old has played 45 times for the Spireites and will start at left-back tomorrow.
Also making a return to the Vic is one of the club’s greatest managers – Chris Turner.
The former Sheffield Wednesday, Sunderland and Man United keeper is chief executive at Chesterfield, working in tandem with manager Paul Cook to take the Spireites to the verge of promotion to League One,
Turner, backed by owners Increased Oil Recovery, transformed Pools from also-rans to a promotion force, building the side which Mike Newell took up in 2003.
The Sheffield man also returned to Pools as director of sport in 2006 before quitting in 2010 after a spell in charge of the first team.
“Chris is part of the Hartlepool furniture,” Cooper said.
“He is a great man and we spoke at the Chesterfield game on Boxing Day.
“Both Chris and Ritchie, I would like to think, will be given a warm welcome by our fans and our football club.
“I’m sure that will happen and it will be deserved.”