Humphrey owes debt of gratitude to ex-PNE boss

Chris Humphrey signs autographs for young North End supporters at Deepdale
Chris Humphrey signs autographs for young North End supporters at Deepdale
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Although Preston North End winger Chris Humphrey will be trying to help dump Shrewsbury out of the FA Cup tomorrow, he does have a soft spot for the Shropshire side.

It was the Shrews – and former PNE manager Gary Peters – who gave Humphrey his break into first-team football.

He made 88 appearances in their colours, reached two Wembley play-off finals and owes plenty to them

The sides meet at Deepdale this weekend in a second-round tie, the possibility of being paired with a Premier League club in Monday night’s draw the carrot dangling in front of them.

Humphrey caught the eye of the Shrews when playing in West Bromwich Albion’s second string.

“I’d had a bad injury and was playing in Albion’s reserves,” said Humphrey.

“They had released me but were helping me get fit. We played against Shrewsbury reserves and the next day I signed for them.

“It was Gary Peters, the old Preston manager, who took me to Shrewsbury.

“Gary is still loved there – he did a great job and I’m grateful to him for giving me my chance.

“I had not played first-team football before and Shrewsbury took a chance on me.

“When we play them in the cup there will be a few people to catch up with.

“Gary was a good manager, although he could lose it!

“If you worked hard for him and did your best, he was absolutely fine with that – like any manager.

“He saw something in me and I have nothing but good things to say about him.

“When I was at Shrewsbury, they got to two play-off finals.

“It was Gary who was manager the first time and then Paul Simpson took us the next time.”

Humphrey stayed with the Shrewsbury for three years before making a Bosman switch to Motherwell.

It was during his time with the Fir Park outfit that he experienced one of his biggest moments to date in football.

The 27-year-old said: “In my second season at Motherwell we reached the Scottish FA Cup final.

“That was one of the big highlights of my career and was an experience I will not forget.

“Unfortunately, we did lose to Celtic at Hampden Park but the day itself was special. Motherwell took 20,000 fans to Hampden, which was massive for them.

“It was amazing to get to the final and just disappointing that we got beaten.”

Humphrey did not face the Shrews when the sides met in September in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

He was rested that night as PNE won 1-0 with a second-half goal from Jordan Hugill.

With clear midweeks either side of the cup clash, Humphrey can expect to go toe to toe with his former club.

Said Humphrey: “It would be great to make progress in the 
FA Cup and get a big draw further down the line.

“I think the competition is still well respected by most clubs, with a lot of them playing their strongest sides.

“The challenge this weekend is to reach the third round and we have a tough game against a good Shrewsbury side.”

North End will be glad to be back on home turf for the next two weekends after all the travelling of recent weeks.

That said, the last few weeks spent on the road have yielded 12 league points, as well as progress in both the FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.

Humphrey is proud of Preston’s away record and thinks it is a real strength.

“I think we are a strong away team, probably the best I have played in,” said the Jamaica international.

“Playing how we do away from home seems to work for us. We are hard to break down if we get ourselves in front.

“Sometimes we get a bit of luck along the way but every side needs that at some stage.

“The last two league away games at Bristol City and Yeovil were very disciplined displays and very rewarding.

“Now we have got two home games and it is important we try and win both of them.

“Making progress in the FA Cup would be good and then the MK Dons game is massive, with us being close together.”

It is a busy December for North End, with the JPT tie against Doncaster or Notts County set to follow the MK Dons fixture. Then it is off to Peterborough five days before Christmas.

On Boxing Day, Simon Grayson’s men host Barnsley at Deepdale and 48 hours later, they head for Crewe.

There are no New Year’s Day games in the Football League this season.

Said Humphrey: “This is always a busy time of the season but 
the staff here are good at handling it.

“With regards to our physical condition, Tom Little our fitness coach knows how much work we need to do and when to step off the gas.

“Our preparation for the away games is great – the owner has been paying for us to be in hotels before games and to travel by train or on the plane.

“Everything is designed to help us do the best on the pitch and hopefully we respond as often as possible with the right results and performances.

“When we hit a sticky patch, we bounced back well.”