It was one of those tears in the eyes moments, one of those cherished and rare moments when time seems to freeze to look on in awe. It was a moment that justified just how much of a legendary status Ritchie Humpheys has richly earned in his Hartlepool career.
Departing mid-way into his very enjoyable testimonial game, all four sides of a packed Victoria Park leapt from their seats and raised their arms to salute the ultimate gentleman of football.
It was a moment that Ritchie perhaps milked strolling off towards bench thanking the rapturous support, but it was fitting and merited. If anyone deserved 6000 fans ovating him, it was Ritchie.
Even in just 2 and a half years of writing for Vital Hartlepool I have exalted and saluted Ritchie so much that anymore sycophant articles will make me look like an obsessive lover of Ritchie. The truth is, I probably am…
But the pen ink will never run dry of compliments of this great man.
I recently listened to a radio documentary about the life of the late great Sir Bobby Robson. One of the contributors to the programme said that ‘everyone who has ever met Sir Bobby has a tale to tell about him’. And the same has to be said to a man who was once famously likened to Dutch wizard Johann Cruyff.
Whether it be a quick autograph by the man in a service station or one of his ingenious goals, everyone has a tale to tell about Ritchie. My greatest tale happened not so long ago; this summer in fact.
With a keen and serious ambition of becoming a sports journalist, I recently got in touch with Sam Lee – Chairman of Ritchie’s Testimonial Commitee. I explained to Sam that I would like be given some valuable experience in the media field and she offered me the chance to write an article about Pools’ visit to the Stadium of Light in 2004, coinciding with his testimonial game.
With the article all drafted up and seemingly ready to send across to Sam, whilst pedalling away from Town on my bike, I got a phone call saying I had to ring Ritchie for qoutes for my article now. Nerves is an understatement.
I quickly had to find a pen and paper and I was quickly ushered into my friends house to ring Ritchie. This was my boyhood hero who I have grown up admiring, and here I was sweating buckets with nerves and fear that I would embarrass myself by s-s-stuttering mid-way through the interview.
Thankfully the nerves and the devilled speech impediment held off as Ritchie calmly, fluently and gentlemanly talked me through his memories of that game. It was my first ever taste of a real-life interview; and I couldn’t of interviewed a more genuine and polite man.
It was an honour to share a few minutes with him over the phone, and it was a terrific grounding for my journalism career.
My Dad repeatedly echoes the phrase ‘There won’t be another Ritchie’, and being a naive and optimistic 16 year old, I probably can’t pass comment on that, but if there is anyone else like Ritchie to don the blue and white shirt in the future then I would love to meet them, because boy oh boy they have a hard standard to follow.
Thank you, Ritchie for everything, ‘There will never be another Ritchie’.