Humphreys is lifted by Pools' starlets

The Northern Echo: Positive: Humphreys Positive: Humphreys

RITCHIE Humphreys admits the emergence of a new batch of prospects at Hartlepool United has given the squad's elder statesmen a lift.

After completing a solid 90 minutes in the Good Friday draw at Colchester, player-coach Humphreys is likely to be named on the bench this afternoon when Brentford visit Victoria Park.

Boss Neale Cooper is ready to switch to a 4-4-2 set-up to boost Pools' disappointing attacking output of late - they have only scored three times in eight games.

That is likely to see Luke James paired up front with Ryan Noble, with a shift in midfield seeing both Humphreys and Paul Murray dropping out of the starting XI.

There's also every chance Jack Baldwin will be omitted, despite another outstanding display last time out.

With Peter Hartley available again after suspension, he is likely to be recalled at heart of the back four.

Humphreys feels Baldwin, who has impressed everyone at Victoria Park in recent weeks, has provided everyone with a reminder that there's no room for complacency.

"Jack was outstanding on Friday and that's exactly what you want,'' admitted Pools' record appearance holder.

"It's a long campaign and there's always going to be people out because of injury or suspension.

"When Jack has come in he's been great. He's a lovely lad and wants to grasp this opportunity and he's been excellent for us.

"It reminds me as a senior player how you have to keep pushing yourself.''

The 34-year-old admitted: "I feel like I can still play and compete, certainly.

"Even after 90 minutes on Friday I didn't feel as if I was running out of gas.

"Being a footballer it's a great living - you're a long time finished.

"Be it playing until 35 or 38, whatever. If you can get to that age then great.

"The enjoyment factor is still there for me. I'm still hungry and I still want to win.

"I still want to be part of a successful team.

"The day after a game I'm fine, it's the next day when I feel a bit stiffer.

"It's that second-day syndrome.

"But all of the things such as the drinks, ice baths and warm-downs help.

"You can recover quicker now than you could ten years ago.

"It's a nice feeling though because the bumps and bruises remind you that you've been in a game.''

Humphreys has made 509 appearances for Pools since signing in 2001 and added: "Mentally it's different because now I'm a senior member.

"I know what it takes to win games, different strategies away from home and the like and younger players lean on the older lads for a bit of guidance.

"Young players have to have that mental edge.

"There are young boys who are probably fitter, quicker and technically better than some others, but if you don't have the mental aspect then you'll be pushed out of the game.

"The likes of Jack, Luke and Ryan have that hunger to learn and have the characteristics to push on and become footballers for a long time.''

Humphreys was a mainstay at Victoria Park under Cooper last time, in his midfield role on the field and as club captain off it.

Now he's part of Cooper's coaching team alongside Micky Barron and admitted: "I have thoroughly enjoyed it under Neale.

"It's great working with him now day to day as part of the coaching team.

"He's enthusiastic, he's bubbly and wants the boys to do well. The boys have seen that will to win.

"We want to finish this season as strongly as we can now.

"The noise from the dressing room, without us saying it, is that they want to finish better than last season.''

Meanwhile, Jonathan Grounds, the Middlesbrough defender on loan at Yeovil, is open to the prospect of a move to Pools.

Grounds is likely to leave the Riverside on a free transfer this summer and Cooper admitted, after the win in Somerset a couple of weeks ago, he was keen on his services.

Grounds said: "With Middlesbrough and Hartlepool being really close, the manager has probably seen me play before in reserve games and first team games.

"So it's always good to stay in managers' minds, and come out of a game we've lost with a positive review from an opposition manager.''

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