Chris Humphrey enjoyed three-and-a-half years with Preston North End wearing the famous number 7 shirt. Among the highlights of his Preston career was a win against Blackpool, a Wembley triumph, and keeping Luke Shaw and Angel Di Maria quiet.
His playing career was short lived after he left Preston, perhaps partly due to the fact he played for eight months for them with a fractured shin. He now manages Kendal Town, but his love for Preston is still clear as witnessed in his recent interview with Playing Away From Home.
Chris spoke about how great a club Preston are, and he was honoured to wear the number 7 shirt, and even offered to retire it after Sir Tom Finney passed away. After the play-off disappointment in 2014, Simon Grayson’s side headed into the next season determined not to fail in their promotion bid again.
“We had a brilliant team, and Simon added to that the next season with DJ, Jermaine (Beckford) and players like Sam Johnstone too.”
After a very strong campaign the season went down to the wire, with Preston needing a win against Colchester United away to secure automatic promotion. Despite a very strong following down to Essex, Preston were unable to deliver. Instead Colchester fans invaded the pitch after they escaped the threat of relegation with a 1-0 win. Grayson’s side had to settle for the play-offs again. Whilst the manager himself had already been successful three times in League One via that route, the fans were understandably pessimistic.
After the Colchester game, Grayson stopped the coach halfway back to Preston and spoke to the team Humphrey said. “He didn’t shout at us. He was calm and said the play-offs are the best way to get promoted. Dust yourselves down and we go again.”
The next training session was to be taken on the beach at Lytham. “We thought we were just going to be doing laps on the beach, running all day.” Instead Grayson said we’re going to play foot-baseball. There were lads falling into the sea, we played for two hours and it was just great.”
Grayson’s methods at this time obviously were unnoticed by the fans but it’s interesting to see how he tried to calm the players down and settle them before the play-offs. However most of the squad were still nervous heading into the semi-final against Chesterfield .
Humphrey recalls “I remember we were in the tunnel before the first leg, and we were nervous, as you would be for that game. And Jermaine Beckford grabbed me and said ‘I’ve got this man, watch, I’m going to show you guys I’ve got this’ And then he goes out and smashes it.”
The rest is history and Beckford will forever be in Preston North End folklore.
In the next part of the interview Humphrey also shared his thoughts on Alex Neil, who was still in charge at the time of the interview.