BIG INTERVIEW: Former Preston North End winger Chris Humphrey on his Deepdale memories and why he’s called time on his career

Humphrey was carried shoulder high by North End fans after PNE reached the play-off final following the semi-final win over Chesterfield
Humphrey was carried shoulder high by North End fans after PNE reached the play-off final following the semi-final win over Chesterfield

There are 133 games to go back through, eight goals to bring a smile to his face, but quick as a flash Chris Humphrey reels off the standout times at Preston North End.

It is with a huge amount of affection that he looks back on three-and-a-half years at Deepdale and the winger is now happy to call Preston home.

Chris Humphrey takes on Manchester United's Luke Shaw

Chris Humphrey takes on Manchester United's Luke Shaw

“I’ve got so many good memories and I’m like any player in having particular highlights,” said Humphrey.

“A big one for me was playing against Walsall early in my first season.

“We won 3-0, I scored a goal and Wade Barrett the WWE wrestler was in the crowd supporting us.

“The next season I scored away to Doncaster and the reaction of the Preston fans that night was fantastic.

“There was the FA Cup game against Manchester United which was obviously a huge occasion.

“I played right wing-back that night and had Luke Shaw and Angel Di Maria to contend with down that side of the pitch.

“One of them was hard enough to deal with, let alone two, but we all played really well and for a while it looked like we could get a result out of it.

“Another big occasion, well more of a few weeks, was when we got up through the play-offs.

“The whole of that season was amazing and the last bit of it was a real rollercoaster.

“There was the bitter disappointment of losing at Colchester on the final day which cost us an automatic place.

“We were sat on the bus afterwards thinking that we were going to get a rollicking for our performance.

“But instead the gaffer, Simon Grayson, came to the back of the bus and made a short speech.

“He told us to get our heads around being in the play-offs, to have a couple of days off, and then get back down to work.

“The gaffer said that if we got it right, the play-offs were the best way to go up.

“We stormed through the play-offs and were promoted at Wembley.

“They were great times at Preston, I made a lot of friends there.

“Peter Ridsdale and Ben Rhodes were fantastic, so was Simon Grayson.

“I’m still in touch with Snods (Glynn Snodin) and I’m a good friend of his.

“They were great years with Preston and great years at Motherwell before that.

“I recall playing really well for Motherwell and my agent told me that Preston were interested.

“I think there was a game which Peter Ridsdale came to watch when I scored and set one up.

“At the end of the season Preston came in for me and after speaking to Simon Grayson, I signed.”

This is a reflective time for Humphrey, the winger having decided recently to retire from the full-time game at the age of 31.

He might yet pull on the boots again on a part-time basis but that decision is for a later date.

For now, Humphrey is happy as a volunteer coach at PNE’s academy and has his sights set on becoming a coach and then a manager.

A shin injury took its toll, Humphrey deciding enough was enough when it came to dealing with the pain from it.

The injury was a stress fracture which does not sound the most serious.

But it was not as straightforward as it would first seem.

Humphrey said: “I got a stress fracture of the shin bone when I was at Preston. It healed all right but the specialist always said it would never be fully right.

“He did say it would have been better had I broken my leg and suffered a clean break.

“But there can be issues with stress fractures and they don’t properly heal.

“I had a bone graft where they packed the fracture with new bone.

“At the back end of my time at Bury, I was having to take strong painkillers.

“In the end I just said to my wife that I couldn’t go on doing that to play football.

“I didn’t want the pain and there’s more to life than football – I want to be able to play with my kids and later my grandchildren without having to limp around in pain.

“It was a wear and tear injury which I got during the season after Preston were promoted.

“I went straight off to play international football for Jamaica and didn’t get a proper rest.

“People might look at that and say what about the Premier League players who go off and play at the World Cup without any problems.

“Everyone is different and the fixture list is more gruelling in League One and the Championship.

“When I talked to my wife about it, I said to her, ‘I’m lucky it has happened later in my career’.

“It could have happened when I was much younger and I wouldn’t have had the career I did.

“I had a decent career and it was my decision to stop playing.

“I’m now enjoying the coaching at the academy, I absolutely love it.

“The kids there are very enthusiastic, they want to learn and ask you questions.

“I’m with the Under-16s a couple of evenings a week.

“Paul Gallagher has been down to see them and John Welsh worked with them last season.

“As a kid, to be able to work with a first-team player and ask questions is brilliant.”