Ritchie Humphreys would not turn up for pre-season training if he did not think he could challenge for a first-team berth at Hartlepool United, writes Craig Hope.
The Victoria Park legend, who turns 35 in November, penned a new one-year playing contract last month but will also continue in his role as a trusted member of Neale Cooper’s backroom team.
But Humphreys remains determined to make the most of his playing days and points to his 31 appearances last term as evidence of his worth to the Poolie cause.
“I’m under no illusion – I don’t expect to be starting week in, week out,” sounded the club captain today.
“But people can’t play to their best ability every week, people lose form or get injured or the manager might want to freshen things up.
“That’s what happened a lot last season and I played more than 30 times and thought I did OK.
“And I still think I can compete, without a doubt, I wouldn’t turn up if I thought I couldn’t.
“Players I’ve known have said that they just know what their body is telling them.
“But the condition I finished last season in was very good and I was delighted to get my new deal.
“I want to be part of what Neale is trying to do here and it’s an exciting time for us.”
Humphreys, along with 35-year-olds Sam Collins and Paul Murray, will form the senior core of Cooper’s squad next season.
But he insists Pools’ older pros are in top shape.
“I think the likes of myself, Sam and Muzza and a few of the others are very aware of how to look after yourself,” Humphreys went on.
“There is so much more you can do these days and turning 30 is not the big thing it used to be.
“For me personally, I’m always looking at new things to get the very best out of myself, because when I’m called upon I have to be ready.
“If it’s my role to come in as and when then I can’t afford to have a few games to get up to speed.
“I need to be doing my utmost to stay in the best possible shape throughout the season and I’m confident I can do that.”