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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 December 2005, 18:43 GMT
Record breaker
By John Sinnott

Ritchie Humphreys
While Frank Lampard took the plaudits for his 160th consecutive Premiership appearance for Chelsea last month, a couple of divisions further down another record breaking achievement passed almost without a murmur.

On the 1 November Hartlepool's Ritchie Humphreys played his 200th consecutive league game for the north-east club.

Having played three more league games since then - before Tuesday's home game with Colchester - Humphreys is now just a mere 198 games away from breaking the all-time record.

The holder of that record is Harold Bell, who between 1946 and 1955 played 401 consecutive league games for Tranmere Rovers.

Having turned 28 last week Humphreys thinks Bell's feats might be beyond him, but he has now set his sights on the record of Matt Holland, who between 1996 and 2003 played 286 league clubs with Bournemouth and Ipswich.

Since joining Hartlepool from Cambridge United in the summer of 2001, Humphreys has missed just two games for the club - a couple of LDV cup matches - when he was rested.

Modestly Humphreys says his "quite proud" of his record, attributing his achievement as much to good fortune as anything else.

"You have to have a lot of luck with injuries," Humphreys told BBC Sport.

"When you've got a game on a Saturday and then on Tuesday sometimes a dead leg might be enough to keep you out.

"I don't tend to get booked so I haven't had a suspension - maybe I'm not tackling enough! - and importantly the managers that I have had here have kept faith with me."

Since making his debut for Wednesday as an 18-year-old a decade ago Humphreys has suffered just one serious injury.

CONSECUTIVE LEAGUE APPEARANCES RECORDS
401 games: Harold Bell - Tranmere - 1946-1955e
394: Dave Beasant - Wimbledon, Newcastle, Chelsea - 1981-1990
366: Phil Neal - Liverpool - 1974-1983
286: Matt Hollandl - Bournemouth and Ipswich - 1996-2003
203: Richie Humphreys - Hartlepool - 2001 - present

That came in March 2001 after he had left Wednesday the previous month to join Cambridge.

In his sixth game for Cambridge away at Luton he broke a bone in his foot and did not play again until the start of the 2001/2002 season when he made his debut for Hartlepool in the 1-1 draw with Mansfield.

Being versatile has helped Humphreys as well - this season he has played much of it at left-back, after Hartlepool's three first-choice defenders in that position picked up injuries.

Humphrey's believes his record might also have something to do with the influence of Paolo di Canio, Pavel Srnicek and Emerson Thome, who played with him at Sheffield Wednesday during the 1990s.

"When the foreign players started to arrive at Hillsborough we subsconsiously picked up so many things from them.

"The way they trained, the way they looked after themselves, refuelling at the right time, eating at the right time and drinking plenty of water.

"All those things help you to recover quickly. And when you are playing four games over the Christmas period it's important for you to warm up and down properly.

"Paolo was a fantastic pro, who trained as he played; Pavel was the ultimate professional and a really good athlete; while Emerson had a fantastic fitness level and looked after himself really well.

When Humphreys broke through into the Wednesday side as a 18-year-old he played in the England Under-21 side alongside Nicky Butt, Gary Neville and Emile Heskey.

Those three went on to become full England internationals and still play in the Premiership, but Humphreys has no bitterness over the way his career has developed.

"To be truthful I wasn't good enough at that level and to be honest I don't think I will ever play again in the Premiership.

"If I was good enough to be in the Premiership I would be there.

"Having said that I love doing what I do. This is my 10th season as professional.

"I love the day-to-day ethic of being a player, of going in and training and playing. I wouldn't swap it for anything else in the world."


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