Socialising with his childhood mates has not been much fun for Preston North End’s speedy wide man Chris Humphrey this season.
The 27-year-old hails from Walsall – who North End face tonight – after moving to the Midlands from Kingston, Jamaica, at the age of five.
And with the Saddlers getting the better of Preston twice this season – both in the league and the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy – Humphrey has endured some gentle ribbing from his Walsall-supporting friends.
North End were comfortably beaten 3-1 at the Bescot Stadium in September and two late goals at Deepdale meant Humphrey tasted defeat once more against his home-town club in the JPT northern area final first leg in January.
Dean Smith’s men went on to earn their place in the final of the competition at Wembley thanks to a 0-0 draw in the second leg.
For the fourth time this season, the two teams clash once more this evening – this time for a League One fixture at Deepdale.
And on this occasion, Humphrey is hoping it will be him who has the bragging rights when the final whistle sounds.
“I’m from Walsall – I lived there for 10 years,” Humphrey said. “I know a lot of people from Walsall and I think I had about 50 people at the game the last time we played them.
“I do get a bit of stick when they beat us but, to be fair, my friends they said that we were a little unlucky.
“They said if Walsall had not scored those two late goals up at our place, things could have been different.
“But it’s all ifs and buts now. The main thing is the league for us now and our aim is to beat them tonight.
“We owe them one and I think the boys will be going out with the memory of the last time we played them fresh in our minds. The match is different, it’s a different type of game, a different scenario than the last time we played them.
“When we last played them, we had to go there and win.
“This time we can take our time and play our football.
“When we play our football, we pass the ball with a purpose, we close people down and we’re in their faces.
“If we do that then we will be very difficult to beat and I don’t see us having any problems tonight.”
Humphrey admits it feels like the 10th time the two sides have met this campaign and he said there will be few surprises when they line up against each other this evening.
The Saddlers are currently in a mid-table spot in League One but they are only four points outside the play-offs and are unbeaten in their last eight away games.
“Walsall have got some good attackers and have also got a good defence,” Humphrey said.
“The Chambers twins – Adam and James – are both good players.
“They are a good team – I know a lot of teams don’t take them for granted and I know we won’t tonight.”
Humphrey has enjoyed a settled run in the team this season and, along with Paul Gallagher, has featured in every league game for North End.
If selected, tonight’s game will be his 40th appearance in all competitions during the campaign.
He has illustrated his versatility by playing in a wide variety of positions of the right wing.
Humphrey admits he is happy to play as a winger or wing-back, and has no qualms when manager Simon Grayson asks him to play at full-back.
He said he would be happy to play in goal as long as he has got a spot in the starting XI. “I have been feeling confident this season,” said Humphrey.
“At the start of the season when I got a run of games, I got a few goals and assists.
“I think that set me up for the season.
“I can play wing-back or right wing – I will play anywhere the gaffer wants me to play – I’ll even play in goal.
“I just go out there and give it my all and if it means me not scoring but we win, then that’s fine.
“I don’t mind where I play. I was saying to the boys that I like to play at right-back – I don’t mind defending.
“But then I love attacking, so I’m happy to play wherever.”
In the past of couple of weeks, Humphrey has been operating in a wing-back position.
And he needed all his defensive skills when he came up in direct competition with Argentinian international Angel di Maria and marauding England full-back Luke Shaw in the recent FA Cup tie against Manchester United at Deepdale.
Although North End suffered a 3-1 defeat, Humphrey said the occasion was one of the highlights of his career.
“It was a surreal moment for me. Just standing by them in the tunnel – it was just an unbelievable experience.
“I thought I did well against them.
“I did not realise Luke Shaw is as quick as he is.
“But I thought we did well against them for large parts of the game and we frustrated them. At the end of the day, their quality showed.”