THE proudest moment of my life – those were the words of an “overwhelmed” Hartlepool United legend Ritchie Humphreys after his testimonial dinner.
More than 200 of his friends, family and the club’s supporters turned out on Saturday night to help celebrate his 10 years at Victoria Park.
Fighting back tears, Ritchie, 33, paid his own tribute to parents, John and Jean, and wife, Amanda, during an emotional speech which drew a standing ovation from all inside the Wynyard Rooms.
And the Pools legend told the Mail today: “For my mum and dad and my wife to be there on such an amazing night was so special.
“It has to be the proudest moment of my life.
“To see so many people – family, friends, team-mates and fans – who mean so much to you, it was just an unbelievably overwhelming experience and one I’ll never forget.”
He added: “I must admit I got a bit emotional during my speech – I did well not to cry in the end.
“But without the support of my parents when I was young I probably wouldn’t have gone on to achieve what I have – I know they’re proud of me but I’m also proud of them.
“I can only thank everyone who was there for making it so special.”
Among the crowd were former team-mates including Michael Nelson, Mark Tinkler and Ben Clark, current stars such as Antony Sweeney and Evan Horwood, first-team coach Mick Wadsworth and chairman Ken Hodcroft, while ex Newcastle United ace John Beresford provided the after-dinner entertainment.
Ritchie had been at Middleton Grange Shopping Centre on Saturday afternoon, signing copies of his official testimonial brochure – although his was not the biggest queue in town.
“It was great to start the day in the town meeting the fans,” he said. “But the queue for Peppa Pig was bigger than mine, and rightly so – my daughter Eliza would approve.
“But the whole day was just incredible and everything went perfectly.
“I was a bit nervous about the speech, I’ve only ever spoken like that as a groom and as best man it went okay, though, I think.”
► See Tuesday’s Mail for more pictures from the book signing and testimonial dinner