Chris Humphrey interview: Preston’s Reggae Boy on the riddim exclusive
Although winger Chris Humphrey is certainly no outsider when it comes to Jamaica, the Preston North End number seven’s Reggae Boyz teammates have him feeling like a vinyl lover with free reign in a record store when they showcase their musical jewels to the ex-Motherwell man.
Approaching the finish line of his second season at Deepdale, the pacy right-sider has already surpassed 100 appearances for Preston. Following the hurt of defeat in last season’s League One play-off semi-final, Simon Grayson has guided the team to an extremely impressive campaign this time around, with the Lilywhites in 2nd place and a point clear of MK Dons in 3rd with three league fixtures remaining.
Chris was brought in by the former Huddersfield Town and Leeds United manager in the summer of 2013 and has been deployed at full-back as well as his natural berth on the wing. In addition to club progression, the 27-year-old has reignited his international career with Jamaica in recent times, enjoying a four-game stint at the end of last season which included taking on France and Switzerland before their FIFA World Cup participation.
German coach Winfried Schäfer, who led Cameroon during the 2002 World Cup, has called up a number of British-born players in his two years in charge of the Jamaican team, including previous music/football interviewees on here such as Watford defender Lloyd Doyley and Houston Dynamo’s Giles Barnes. Born in St. Catherine in the south east of Jamaica, Chris moved with his family to Walsall as a five-year-old, but as he describes his love of music and the artists and genres he enjoys the most, there are big influences from his birth nation.
“I’m very much into my Jamaican music. I love dancehall; Vybz Kartel, Popcaan, Mavado, Alkaline.
“I also like Drake, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, so they’re the ones I listen to on my iPod and my phone. Growing up, I was into Bob Marley, people like LL Cool J, Boyz II Men, Jagged Edge, Destiny’s Child.
“I think the first I had was the Jagged Edge album with ‘Walked Outta Heaven’ on it. I think the album was called ‘Hard’.
“Back then, my friends used to copy music for me onto CDs.”
A one-time Walsall and West Bromwich Albion youngster, Chris got his breakthrough in first-team football with his 2006 move to Shrewsbury Town. In his three years in Shropshire, he featured 88 times, scoring twice and playing his last game for the club in the League Two play-off final at Wembley.
That match ended in dejection for Chris and his teammates as the Shrews lost to Simeon Jackson’s 90th-minute winner for Gillingham and he had the pain of defeat for Preston in the League One semi-final with Rotherham United last May. North End have come roaring back this season however, fuelled by a flow of goals in all competitions from the likes of Joe Garner (22), Paul Gallagher (13) and Jermaine Beckford (10).
One of those mentioned is in his third loan spell with the club, some seven seasons after his first, and he is the one who presides over the playlist on match day, as Chris explains.
“Here, it’s Paul Gallagher and he’s been the best team DJ I’ve seen. He plays all the music I just said, apart from dancehall, and he’s got a good mix for everyone.”
It would be difficult to find a professional team that decides to completely shun music in the build-up to a game, although some managers may insist on certain times when it has to be switched off. As the interviews on this site have highlighted in the last few years, there is a real appreciation for music in football with regard to how much of a positive effect it can have on players’ moods.
With the Jamaican squad, the love for something to move to and vibe with goes up a level or two, with music stitched into the nation’s culture of course. Chris was called up for the Reggae Boyz for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup but his Jamaican passport had expired, as he had assumed he wouldn’t require it again after leaving for England as a child.
With that sorted, he was eventually able to begin his international career, but his involvement in the friendlies last summer felt like a new start in many ways, after he had been out of the picture for a while. There was a draw with Egypt, narrow losses to Switzerland and Serbia, as well as an 8-0 defeat to France, but Chris felt he took a lot from directly testing himself against such renowned names as Aleksandar Kolarov, Patrice Evra and Xherdan Shaqiri.
Preston have had their share of Jamaican players, including striker Ricardo Fuller and defender Claude Davis, and besides the pride of wearing national team colours Chris also gets exclusive access to the newest tracks from the island whenever he joins up with the squad.
“The Jamaican players know all the new songs from artists over there, whereas we don’t get them for a while over here, so I’m there Shazam-ing everything! Whenever I come back from being with Jamaica all my friends are asking, ‘Oh, what’s this?’
“There’s a live band playing when you’re warming up for games, the homegrown Jamaican players put the music on in the changing room, and you even hear music when you’re walking down the street.”
Moving north to Motherwell in 2009, Chris played against Panathinaikos in the qualifying phase of the UEFA Champions League in 2012 before featuring against Levante in the Europa League play-off round. He played 155 times for Well, netting nine in total and working with players like Jamaican counterpart and one-time Preston winger Omar Daley, as well as current Birmingham City goalkeeper Darren Randolph, who was best man at Chris’ wedding.
Team spirit is a fundamental aspect for any successful side and it has proved so for Preston this season. A singing initiation has long been a way to break the ice at clubs for new players but Chris had that experience for the first time when he joined North End, so he threw in something extra to go with the vocals!
“I’ve done it just once and that was when I signed here. I did ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’ and I did a little dance with it.
“I think it’s just getting yourself up there that’s the hard part, with your bottle as your microphone. This is the first place I’ve ever seen new players sing actually.
“Craig Davies did ’21 Seconds’ (So Solid Crew) when he came here on loan and he was very good.”
In his final season at Fir Park, Chris helped Motherwell to a runners-up spot in the last edition of the Scottish Premier League before the introduction of the Premiership. He had been the subject of Old Firm interest while in Scotland but spurned the advances of Rangers in order to return to England in 2013.
One of his fellow Preston players has also spent part of his career north of the border, with Hamilton Academical, and the ex-Bury and Tranmere Rovers left-back would be in Chris’ trio if he was ever to record a song cover.
“‘Thinking Out Loud’ by Ed Sheeran. I’d definitely have David Buchanan on that, because he always plays it, and I’d have Paul Gallagher because he can play the guitar.”
On April 6th, Chris, who has five goals in 52 games this season, notched his first since October in the 3-0 victory away to Bradford City. Sitting in 2nd with only three left to play, it is everyone’s objective at Preston to make sure they join champions Bristol City in winning automatic promotion.
Although they would go into the play-offs with every chance given their performance over the season and the ability in the ranks, like the rest of his team, Chris wants to skip the extension to the campaign and be celebrating the club’s return to the Championship at the final whistle at Colchester United on May 3rd. While giving some insight into his family life, he takes a look at what the game has taught him the most and what the future may hold some years down the line.
“Just basically that anything you want to do and put your mind to can be done. I never thought I’d have half the career I’ve had.
“I’ve been quite lucky to have had managers with a lot of knowledge on how to treat players, especially with knowing how to rest players when they need it, so I think I’ve learned a lot from them.
“I’ve done a couple of coaching badges when I was younger but I’ve not carried on with them yet. I want to carry on in football once I finish playing.
“I’ve got two hyper kids, one’s two and one’s four, so they take up most of my time. Any other time I get I tend to just chill on the Xbox or PlayStation.”
Having just alluded to the knowledge he has gained from managers in his career, it is now time for Chris to step into that role for a moment, albeit with playing duties thrown in! In the past few years on here, players have been asked to select their fantasy 5-a-side line-ups comprising themselves and the best they have ever played alongside.
In February, Chris named eleven of these for Preston’s official website, but who would make his small-sided selection here? He described ex-West Brom and current Tranmere midfielder Jason Koumas as the best individual he has worked with but the former Wales international will have to show that old magic from the bench here!
“In goal, I’d have Darren Randolph, just because he’s such a good shot-stopper. I was with him at Motherwell and I can’t see many scoring past him in a 5-a-side goal.
“I’ll go with two at the back – Wes Morgan and Adrian Mariappa. They’re both tough and strong, and one’s quick and one’s rapid.
“Up front…this is a hard one…I’d probably have Robbie Earnshaw. He trained with the reserves sometimes when I was at West Brom, not often, but sometimes.
“For me as a winger, he taught me some stuff about how strikers like balls played into them. He used to say to the young players, ‘I’m here if you need anything, it doesn’t have to be football advice’, so he was great.”
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