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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 15:18 GMT
Humphreys is pride of Hartlepool
By Pete Oliver

Ritchie Humphreys
Humphreys made 232 consecutive league appearances for Pools
Apart from Liverpool midfielder Steven Gerrard, which other footballer has been honoured by the Queen this season?

The answer, perhaps surprisingly, is Hartlepool United's 29-year-old midfielder Ritchie Humphreys.

Humphreys was among a group recognised for making a "significant contribution to local and national life".

In the case of Humphreys his contribution came in the shape of a remarkable run of 232 consecutive league appearances for Hartlepool.

"The letter came to the club at first and I thought it was a wind-up by one of the boys," he told BBC Sport.

"I checked it out long and hard and I thought if it was they had gone to a lot of trouble.

"So I rang the number and it was the Master of the Household at Buckingham Palace."

Along with the likes of boxer Joe Calzaghe, Channel swimming comedian David Walliams and deserving members of the general public, Humphreys attended the Palace with his mother, sister and girlfriend Amanda.

Just to be invited there was amazing. I was representing the club, the area and the town and I was very proud

Ritchie Humphreys

"The Duke of Edinburgh said to me 'you're the guy who must have been playing since he left the cradle'," he added.

"He must have memorised who people were, which was great, and I also said 'hello' to the Queen.

"Just to be invited there was amazing. I was representing the club, the area and the town and I was very proud."

Sheffield-born, Humphreys regards himself at home in the North-East, where the former Sheffield Wednesday man has played his football since 2001.

In his first five years with Pools he never missed a game, although his remarkable run of uninterrupted first-team duty had ended by the time he met the Queen just before Christmas.

Having initially been left out of the side by manager Danny Wilson at the end of August, Humphreys spent a month away from Pools with a loan spell at Port Vale.

It was not, however, to spell the end of his career at Victoria Park.

Ritchie Humphreys
Humphreys spent a month on loan at Port Vale

"The manager said he didn't want me to go for more than a month, but I wasn't in the team and he said I might as well be playing," Humphreys said.

"That was great for me because it meant I kept playing - I only missed one game - and since he called me back I have got back in the team and played every game.

"I'm pleased how it's worked out, because I have never wanted to be anywhere else."

Under Wilson, who was appointed last summer following Hartlepool's relegation from League One, Pools took time to gel.

On Humphreys' return they continued to struggle for consistency until his stunning last-minute strike at Accrington Stanley in the middle of November launched a record-breaking run of nine consecutive league wins.

"I have never had that many back-to-back wins before in my career," Humphreys added.

"I have had unbeaten runs but the fact that we were getting wins every game for nine in a row was fantastic, to see the progress we were making up the table.

"Now we have created a little bit of a gap over the teams underneath us and we can target the teams above us."

Eight successive wins were secured without conceding a goal, with Humphreys playing a key role having again reverted from his midfield position to the left-back slot.

Quick to share the praise around the defensive unit and those working hard ahead of them, Humphreys is anxious not to look too far ahead.

But after one promotion and three play-off campaigns in his time at the club, he is keen to make amends for last season's aberration when Pools dropped back into the basement division.

"Last season was just hopefully a blip because before that we had success after success," Humphreys said.

"Every season we were up in the play-offs or got up and hopefully between now and the end of the season we can keep this run going.

"Obviously we will lose some games because that's football. But if we win more hopefully we will have a chance of getting back up to the division where we have done well before."

SEE ALSO
Humphreys returns to Hartlepool
10 Oct 06 |  Hartlepool United
Port Vale keen to keep Humphreys
06 Oct 06 |  Port Vale
Humphreys makes Vale loan switch
08 Sep 06 |  Port Vale
Record breaker
06 Dec 05 |  Hartlepool United


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