It only seems like yesterday when a teenager called Ritchie Humphreys burst on to the scene as a prodigious talent with Sheffield Wednesday, scoring great goals and tormenting defenders for fun in the Premier League. Fifteen years on its fair to say his career at Hillsborough didn't go as he'd expected but the Owls' loss was most certainly Hartlepool United's gain. This week Ritchie became the club's record appearance holder after making his 473rd outing for the north east outfit.
Ritchie has been a fantastic servant to Hartlepool United. Since joining them as a striker back in 2001 he's played in many different positions, primarily as a left winger and most latterly as left-back but he's always delivered 100 per cent effort and quality of course, from that magical left boot of his. A better professional you would struggle to find.
I was privileged to be invited to Ritchie's testimonial golf day earlier this year and although I didn't win anything that day I won't hold it against him. He's a top lad and one of The Football League's true modern day legends.
Ritchie is contemplating a career in management now and under the guidance of Mick Wadsworth is getting involved in taking training sessions while he's still a player. I think that's a wise move and it echoes exactly the start I had in coaching. During the twilight of my career at Scarborough, Mick was my Manager and he encouraged me to get involved in coaching too. It's like he's tapped into the same situation, several years on.
Another forward player who is itching to make their mark in management is Brentford's caretaker boss Nicky Forster. He inherited the job when Andy Scott was sacked at a time when the dressing room could easily have gone into a downer but with five games unbeaten and a Wembley appearance to look forward to, he seems to have got his players perked up again and ready to fight on for the club.
Nicky is registered as a player but has gone on record as saying he won't pick himself and I believe he's made the correct call in doing so. I was Player-Manager at Oldham Athletic when I started out but quickly realised it's impossible to do two jobs properly. When you play you're so engrossed in what you're doing that you can't come in at half-time and be objective as a Manager. There are too many things to think about. With that, and the obvious split loyalties it can just muddle your brain!
To have proper input as a football Manager you need to be stood or sat watching things from the side lines and it's to Brentford's benefit that Nicky has recognised that straight away. I wish him luck in getting the job on a permanent basis.
Another young Manager that's being put to the test this season is Oldham Athletic's Paul Dickov. He's been brilliant this year but I felt for him at the weekend when he was forced to endure a 5-0 drubbing at home to promotion rivals Peterborough United.
That alone would be enough to spoil anyone's day but unfortunately for Paul he also had to play the whole afternoon out in front of the TV cameras who were filming a behind the scenes feature for the BBC's Late Kick Off show. With a microphone attached to his chest all day I thought he did well to restrain himself and afterwards when they interviewed him he was coolness personified despite his obvious disappointment at his side's performance. Mind you I'm sure the next time TV crews want to film him he may be a tad more reluctant to go ahead with it!
It's been confirmed that Oldham's staff weren't paid their wages on time last month but the Manager was keen to point out that this wasn't the reason behind their poor display. Cash flow is an issue for many clubs on a monthly basis and in their case I don't believe it's a major problem. Fingers crossed my old club can get that side of things back on track while the team itself looks to do the same.
Danny Green emailed in with this question for me…
Hi Andy, are you surprised Craig Mackail-Smith hasn't been snapped up by clubs at a higher level?
I am a little bit surprised yes Danny. In January I thought a lot more interest would be shown in the lad because he's proven over a number of seasons now that he's a natural goalscorer in the npower Football League. He's got pace, he's busy, he works on the shoulder of defenders and as his record suggests he also knows where the goal is.
Mackail-Smith was right up there in the scoring charts last season and with 24 to his name already this time around his record speaks for itself. I'm sure Posh will do all they can to retain his services but I wouldn't be at all shocked if one or two npower Championship clubs came in for him this summer. He's unquestionably good enough to do well at that level.
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