A lesson in diplomacy from the PFA chairman and Chesterfield's new caretaker boss
If a career in football management doesn't materialise for Ritchie Humphreys, a career in diplomacy surely will.
Today the 39-year-old held his first Proact press conference of his stint as Chesterfield’s caretaker manager to preview Saturday’s hugely vital League One clash against fellow strugglers Coventry City.
And while he was both asked and answered questions on whether or not he wanted the job on a permanent basis, no one left the ground any wiser as to his interest in the position.
“The honest answer is I’ve not had time to think, I don’t think I’ve sat down since Sunday night,” he said when asked what he called the ‘inevitable’ question.
“The responsibility is on us as a club to go into the game on Saturday, try and be positive.
“We want the fans to get behind us but us as players and coaching staff we have to give the fans something to cheer about.
“We’ve got to be positive and start the game in the right frame of mind, try and win it and put points on the board.”
The PFA chairman has indeed had a whirlwind week since getting the call to be caretaker on Sunday.
On Monday he had to address the squad and prepare them for Tuesday’s EFL Trophy game at Luton, the first match of his tenure.
Since then he’s had to pick them up after a disappointing 4-0 defeat and then focus attention on Saturday’s visit of the Sky Blues.
It all began with a plan, drafted by he and goalkeeping coach Matt Duke before ezpressing to the players how vital it is they stick together and back one another.
“I had a meeting on Monday morning and told them we’ve got a plan in place for the week,” he said.
“I mentioned that I can only pick 11, some will be disappointed, I’ve had it, we’ve all had it, it’s disappointing but you’ve got to get behind the players that are playing regardless of situation but certainly in the one we’re in.
“Players need each other and the injured players have been behind the players playing.
“On Monday I told them the team up at the training ground and we did some work for Tuesday’s game.
“I’ll do that again tomorrow.”
With his A license, a certificate in applied management and the experience of leading Chesterfield’s reserves all under his belt already, it’s no surprise that Humphreys was seen by the board as a safe pair of hands for this transitional period.
And he’s confident he has what it takes to live up to the role.
“I’m an experienced player, I’ve been around changing rooms all my professional working life,” he said.
“I think I know what’s required, you can’t go stamp your authority and make major changes.
“You have to know the group, which I do, and do the best for the players and the club.
“It’s obviously a serious situation and we’ve had a plan all week and we’ve not wavered from that so far.”
But even if the story has moved quickly on from Danny Wilson and Chris Morgan’s sacking, Humphreys was keen to take a moment and pay tribute to the duo, both of whom he has known for at least two decades.
“Both Danny and Chris are exceptional people. I played junior football both with and against Chris Morgan,” he said.
“I’ve probably known Danny Wilson since I was 19 at Sheffield Wednesday, I’ve worked under him at a number of clubs now.
“It’s always disappointing when good people lose their jobs.
“We know as players, coaches, managers, it’s the nature of the industry.
“It’s really unfortunate.”
But life goes on, and Humphreys summed up the task facing the club sitting third from bottom in League One.
“We have to pull together, get everyone together and on board, regroup this week to try and get the lads together,” he said.
“It’s the responsibility of everyone in that changing room to do our best for this football club.
“We know where we are, we’ve got to step up to the mark as a football club and try and get ourselves out the situation over the next 20 games.
“If we can get a win this weekend it will be a first positive step.”