Humphreys: Strong team spirit and work ethic key in Hartlepool’s run to Cardiff

Ritchie Humphreys addresses the crowd at the Hartlepool United 2004-2005 squad reunion at the Borough Hall.
Ritchie Humphreys addresses the crowd at the Hartlepool United 2004-2005 squad reunion at the Borough Hall.

Drew Talbot played a key role in Hartlepool United’s heartbreaking League One Play-Off final defeat.

And to rub salt into the wounds, Pools legend Ritchie Humphreys has had to share a dressing room with him for the last two years at Chesterfield.

Sheffield Wednesday's Chris Brunt (L) and Hartlepool's Richie Humphreys in action during the Coca-Cola League One play-off final.

Sheffield Wednesday's Chris Brunt (L) and Hartlepool's Richie Humphreys in action during the Coca-Cola League One play-off final.

Not that he holds a grudge against a player that denied the Pools squad making history.

On that remarkable day in May, 2005, the Sheffield Wednesday utility player was fouled by Chris Westwood late on, which led to the Pools defender seeing red and Wednesday drawing level from the penalty spot.

It was a pivotal moment and one from which Pools couldn’t recover.

Talbot then went on to score the fourth goal as Wednesday triumphed 4-2 in extra-time to seal their place in the Championship.

In the Pools team that day was record appearance holder, Humphreys, one of the club’s most decorated players of all time.

Ever the professional, Humphreys doesn’t bear a grudge but he admits it would have been massive for the town and the club to have won promotion to the second tier.

Humphreys told SportMail: “Certain moments stick out from the final and we had bad luck with injuries, Joel [Porter] and Boydy going off and the penalty seemed to be in slow motion.

“The lad who went down for the penalty [Talbot] and scored the fourth goal, I’ve played with for the last two years and I remind him every day!

“But that’s football.

“We were eight minutes from the Championship and a lot of us hadn’t played there before.

“We could have gone there as a team and that would have been a big thing for us.”

Humphreys, who made a record 542 games and 37 goals for the club, was voted Player of the Decade and Player of the Century at Pools and is now the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) chairman.

And he puts the success of the 2004-05 campaign down to a few, very simple, ingredients.

He added: “We had good players and top strikers

“But it was more that we had the team-spirit and work ethic to go with it.”

That spirit and togetherness was evident when the players came back together, a decade on from Cardiff at the recent reunion event organised by Pools fans Phil Dunn and Andy Wilson, in aid of Hartlepool & District Hospice.

“We were so grateful for the lads who put the reunion together,” Humphreys added.

“Some of us do meet up and talk but as I mentioned in my speech at the PFA Awards, you are a long time not being a footballer.

“We should embrace every minute and some of us are not playing anymore so to have been here and been able to enjoy the adulation of a crowd was fantastic.

“We were successful for the fans and I know the fans appreciate that.

“We, though, appreciate the fans because if it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t have had all those great times.

“It was a fantastic event,” added Humphreys, who has another year on his contract at Chesterfield.

Sheffield-born Humphreys, now 37, lived in Durham while playing for Pools and he looks back on his time in the North East with great fondness.

And he is looking forward to returning to The Vic to watch Pools in action once he does finally hang up his boots.

He added: “Hartlepool was a great part of our lives and we lived up here for six or seven years, I got married up here and it will always be a big part of our lives.

“Hopefully, as the kids grow up we’ll keep coming back.

“And after I’ve finished playing I’ll come back to the Vic and watch some games.”