WHEN Ritchie Humphreys collected his Player of the Century accolade at Hartlepool United, it was not a sentimental gift to a popular star.
Humphreys earned the trophy three years ago for being a class act for Pools.
And the 35-year-old is still showing he has not lost it.
Humphreys will be in action again tomorrow at MK Dons after impressing new first-team coach John Hughes on the training ground and on the field.
Hughes has put his faith in the veteran midfielder and Yogi admitted Humphs stepped up to the plate.
“Ritchie has set an example,” Hughes said.
“Training and coaching is so different to a game.
“We can put a training session on for the boys to work and get a sweat on.
“I watched him and he was exceptional in training, getting it going, passing it and with quick feet – that’s training the way you play.
“Seeing that performance in the game [against Stevenage] didn’t surprise me one bit.”
A grim relegation battle might not, on the face of it, be the sort of gig associated with Humphreys.
But while not happy with the situation his beloved Pools are in, the club captain is happy to be at the heart of the action in the centre of the park again.
In the absence of team skipper Peter Hartley, Humphreys led Pools against Stevenage and produced a top drawer performance.
He will look to do likewise at stadium:mk tomorrow.
“I’ve played recently and enjoyed it,” said Humphreys, who was thrilled to get a starting spot again.
“You have got to be professional and you’ve got to be ready.
“Not everyone plays all the games and [when you are not playing] you have got to be professional and do everything right so when the opportunity arises you are ready.
“It’s nice to be in the team and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.
“We need some results, some points, that’s stating the obvious.
“But we have had steady progress since Coventry.
“We’ve worked at passing and moving and creating better chances.
“But we’ve got to keep clean sheets to give ourselves a chance of getting those results.
“It’s a simple thing to say ‘we need clean sheets to start picking up points’ but that’s what we’re trying to do.
“We’re working hard to try to rescue the situation.”
Humphreys has seen more highs than lows during his 11 years at Victoria Park – two promotions, play-off appearances and a club record five straight seasons in English football’s third tier.
So is this the worst pickle the Yorkshireman has found himself in during his career.
“I’ve been relegated with Pools before but, no, I’ve not been in a position like this before,” he told SportMail.
“It’s not a nice situation but that’s what football throws up at you sometimes.
“Football is lovely when everything is going right, you are up challenging in the play-offs and people are playing with confidence.
“But now is the time to dig deep, the time for soul searching and the time for everyone to work hard every day.
“No one is going to give you any points, you are going to have to earn them.”