FORMER Owls star Ritchie Humphreys has given The Star the lowdown on why his Hartlepool team have made such a flying start to the season.
Pools finished a point below Wednesday last season, in 16th place in League One.
But they are now fourth with an unbeaten record and with a game in hand on most of the teams around them.
Humphreys says the start could have been even better, for Pools were pegged back only by late equalisers last month at MK Dons and Stevenage. “Those still look good results because they’ve both done well at home,” says the 33-year-old.
“To grind out wins in our last five games has been fantastic. Probably in our last two games we haven’t played as well as in earlier ones, but it’s fine when you can do that and still win.
“We’ve brought in some good players, There’s Nobby Solano, who everybody knows; he’s got bags of quality and experience; Colin Nish, a big centre-forward from Scotland; and two young players who were in the academies at Manchester City and Sunderland and have really good potential: James Poole [striker] and Nathan Luscombe [midfielder].
“We also got [defender] Jack Baldwin from non-league football, and he has potential.
“There is lots of experience in the squad: myself, Sam Collins, Paul Murrray, Tony Sweeney and Adam Boyd; at the younger end there’s Gary Liddle and Peter Hartley, but they are experienced as well.
“Mick Wadsworth [manager] and our first-team coach Micky Barron have worked hard.”
Although maybe too modest to say it, Humphreys too has had an important role, for he is player-coach these days. He was in the side at left-back for last week’s 2-1 win at Bournemouth when Stephen Wright was unfit.
Humphreys added: “It’s been a good start but you never know what’s around the corner in football. You have to keep everybody’s feet on the ground,
“But everybody’s buzzing and long may it continue.”
He watched from the sidelines as the Owls crushed Pools 5-0 last August: “Wednesday probably put away every chance they had. Like we said after that game, if you give quality players that much time you’ll get punished. We also couldn’t cope with Neil Mellor, who was fantastic.”
Humphreys added he did not know yet whether he would be playing on Saturday. “The manager has changed it even when we’ve won. I’ll have to wait and see,” he said.
Teams and ref
POOLS (possible): Flinders, Austin, Collins, Hartley, Humphreys, Solano, Liddle, Murray, Sweeney, Nish, Boyd (4-4-2).
OWLS (possible): Bywater, Buxton, Batth, R Jones, R Johnson, O’Connor, Lines, Semedo, Marshall, Madine, McGoldrick (4-4-2).
GRAHAM SALISBURY (Lancs): Has refereed South Yorkshire sides in his last three games and seen none of them score: Sheffield United 0 Huddersfield 3; Reading 2 Doncaster 0; and Rotherham 0 Southend 4.