I couldn't turn down Lennon '“ Hibs new boy Chris Humphrey
Hibs new boy Chris Humphrey has revealed how he was unable to resist the lure of playing under Easter Road boss Neil Lennon.
The former Motherwell winger found himself in demand when it became known his contract with Preston North End of the English Championship was to be terminated.
Other clubs in England were looking to land the Jamaican internationalist but, within hours of his release from Deepdale, the 29-year-old had agreed a deal to join Hibs until the end of the season.
“It was a no-brainer really,” insisted Humphrey. “When Hibs came in to say they were interested and you have a manager like that here, you just think ‘it would be fantastic to play under him’.
“He has won countless titles and stuff in Scotland. There were a few clubs down south, but I wanted a change again.
“My wife Kerry came up and had a look around and she was buzzing with the place. That made things a lot easier for me because family reasons would be the only reason why I wouldn’t come back [to Scotland].”
Kingston-born Humphrey admitted his four seasons with Motherwell also played a part in his decision, saying: “It’s completely different to the first time I came up to Scotland. I know what it’s all about.
“Obviously I know Scotland very well although Edinburgh is new to me. I visited a couple of times when I was at Motherwell but I’ve had a good look round since I have been here and it’s a fantastic place. I am really enjoying it so far and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve here.”
Although he played at Easter Road a number of times, Humphrey’s abiding memory of clashes between Hibs and Motherwell – he made more than 150 appearances for the Steelmen – was the astonishing 6-6 draw at Fir Park at the end of his first season in Lanarkshire.
At one point, Hibs were leading 6-2 although Giles Coke had reduced the leeway to three goals when Humphrey was called from the bench with barely 20 minutes remaining.
He said: “I remember I was like ‘don’t bring me on please, I don’t want to come on in this’.
“But we brought it back to 6-6. We missed a penalty and then Lukas Jutkiewicz scored with that left foot in the last minute.
“There was another game when we beat Hibs and then went on our Christmas night out so that’s a good memory too.
“They are the two games I remember, but obviously the 6-6 was an amazing game.
“These are the games you want to be involved in, it was an amazing match.”
Humphrey’s move to Edinburgh reunites him with Grant Holt, a team-mate for a season at Shrewsbury Town which ended with the striker winning a £400,000 switch to Norwich City where he enjoyed back-to-back promotions, taking the Canaries from League One to the Premier League.
He recalled: “Holty and I got 30 goals between us that season. He got 28 and I got two. To be fair, I think I got seven or eight assists so I got him that move, I think!
“He always says to me that he got it himself, but I’m not having that. I had a great time with him at Shrewsbury. I know his game and what he’s all about. He’s a handful but a great lad as well. It’s been easy to feel my way in with him here. I’m really looking forward to playing with him.”
And Humphrey believes he and Holt can re-establish the partnership they enjoyed in Shropshire very quickly. “I definitely feel we can get it up and running again. The way everyone has been training here I feel that I’m getting to know the way the boys play and what I need to look out for on the pitch. I’ve got that straight away so that’s helped me settle in.”
As in his days with Motherwell, Humphrey believes his lightning pace remains his most potent weapon, joking: “At Shrewsbury, I was very, very quick. Now I might just be very quick.
“I just want to try to being some pace to the team and try and link up with the boys. I see [Martin] Boyle is very fast as is Jason [Cummings].
“It will be nice to link up with them and Holty in the box – anything can happen. I’m just really excited. It’s nice to have that excitement back into playing again.”
Although he is raring to get started, Humphrey admitted he might have to settle for a role as a spectator for tonight’s top-of-the-table clash with title rivals Dundee United, but he has his fingers crossed that he’ll be watching from the bench.
He said: “I’m fit and ready to play; it depends on what the gaffer wants. The boys had a win in the last game and you don’t tend to change a winning team, which is fair enough.
“I’m just happy there’s a chance to be playing again, whether that’s off the bench or starting. Whatever the gaffer has in mind it’s just nice to be involved in a team and feel wanted again. I’m looking forward to it whether it be for ten or 20 minutes or whatever. But I’ll give it my all. It would be some game to go into, really fantastic.
“My son Cody will be coming up and my daughter Amelia as well. Cody really loves football. He’s only four so he can’t understand why I won’t be playing for Preston again but I’ve already got him a Hibs top so he’s happy.
“When he goes to the game and sees the crowd I’m sure he’ll love it. It just makes it a bit more special.”
Humphrey has returned north of the Border intent on helping Lennon’s side to promotion, something he enjoyed in his second season at Preston.
The Lilywhites had never won in nine previous play-off appearances but thumped Swindon 4-0 in the final of 2015 to move from League One to the Championship.
Humphrey said: “It would be good to get another promotion under by belt. I got one at Preston. To get the chance to get one again is a no-brainer. I am here to offer my services to try and help us get back into the Premiership.”
And should that happen, Humphrey revealed he could already be tempted to extend his stay at Easter Road.
He said: “Anything can happen. I have not put a marker down saying I am only staying here till the end of the season. I have settled in really well and if we can get back to the Premiership, then why not stay?
“It would have to be something out of this world, amazing for me to go. It’s a massive club, I knew all about them when I was up here with Motherwell so it is not my intention to leave straight away.”