THE proud Hartlepool United appearance record held by Watty Moore for more than half a century has finally been matched and the message to Ritchie Humphreys this morning is: ‘What took you so long?'

On April 18, 1960, Moore's career with his beloved Pools reached its end, bringing to a close a 12-season stint involving 472 appearances, which players in the decades since have struggled to come anywhere near.

In Humphreys, though, Pools have a versatile midfielder on the verge of breaking it. If he plays any part in the League One fixture at Exeter City this afternoon, the record will have gone.

It's just a shame the late Moore will not be around to see it.

"The whole family, and I include my dad in this even though he is not around, are really pleased for Ritchie," said Watty's son, John, 65.

"It's a fantastic achievement for a footballer to have played for so long at one club these days and my dad would be delighted to pass it over to a player like Ritchie.

"All my dad would have said is ‘where've you been? It's taken you long enough'. This is a record that has stood for more than 50 years, amazing really.

"I know what he was like and to him, to me, to most people, 472 appearances is just a modest total. It's not a Ryan Giggs or a Paul Scholes total, in the six hundreds or whatever. He'd be amazed it lasted so long.

"I certainly don't think that Ritchie's record will last as long. Look at Antony Sweeney (329 appearances), he's well on his way already and he's got a few years left. But fair play to Ritchie, he deserves to have reached the record for the commitment he has given to the club."

What is staggering about Moore's record is that, because there were no substitutes in those days, he started every one of his tally. To Humphreys' credit, his record includes 443 starts during an era when substitutions are common.

It all started when Moore signed for Pools at the age of 23 after impressing in the Hartlepool Church League for Oxford Street Old Boys. He was quickly asked to switch from centre-forward to centre-half. He earned £12 a week when the side won.

His mother, Harriet, never missed a game.

"She would go every week and stand with a quarter of midget gems and sugar-coated almonds.

"If anything went against her boy, she would run down to the line and throw sweets at the linesman or referee," said her grandson, a regular himself for more than 50 years.

Moore, team captain, was hugely respected in the dressing room and when he died following a heart attack at the age of 41 - seven years after his last appearance for Pools and following stints at Horden CW and Thornley CW - thousands attended his funeral at Stranton Cemetery.

The family he left behind, seven children (he also lost a little boy aged just three weeks after complications) like to reflect on what he achieved during his career.

"In 1956-57 they should have gone up from Division Three North, when they finished runners-up to Derby, but the owners told them they could not afford to so they blew it in the end," said Moore.

"But by far and away his most two memorable games were in the FA Cup against Chelsea (0-1) in 1956 and then the 4-3 defeat to Manchester United - the Busby Babes - a year later.

"I reckon there were 23,000 or so in for that United game in the third round, even though the official figure was more 17,000. Pools were 3-1 down at half-time but then they came back against Duncan Edwards and the like.

"He lost a couple of teeth in that game, courtesy of Tommy Taylor's elbow. He also lost a couple of teeth against Chelsea because of Roy Bentley.

"I will always remember my mam asking him if he was all right after having his teeth knocked out. All he said was ‘you'll find a few of theirs out there as well'."