2016/2017 stats (for Preston North End & Hibernian in all competitions): 1,156 minutes, 14 starts, 8 sub appearances; 1 goal, 3 assists.
Bury manager Lee Clark has added senior competition for the right flank with the signing of free agent Chris Humphrey after the Jamaican decided to leave Hibernian and head south of the border. His capture most likely leaves just three or four more holes to fill, with goalkeeper Ben Williams’ contract mutually terminated. Clark is keen to tie the rest of them up before the next fortnight has elapsed and Humphrey will be present at the first full day of pre-season training.
It is not unreasonable to suggest the St. Catherine-born defensive winger didn’t have the best experience last season at either club he featured for. He fell out of favour under then-Lilywhites boss Simon Grayson and Tom Barkuizen’s subsequent form certainly justified that particular swap. He started off well for the Hibees but he suffered an injury during the month of February, which kept him out of contention until very late on last season.
Humphrey had previously suffered an even longer spell out for Preston at the back-end of 2015, so you would hope that Clark and his new physio Paul Smith have done sufficient checks to ensure they have an individualised programme in place to minimise the risk of aggravating any previous areas of concern.
The manager has been quoted as saying that he is of the belief that Humphrey will “provide something different” to the likes of Jay O’Shea and Zeli Ismail and he is not incorrect in that assessment. While there are similarities with how direct in their approach play the trio are (and Clark wouldn’t have signed Humphrey if he wasn’t direct), where they differ significantly is how early they like to send in crosses and not just aimlessly or without bearing fruit. This is the main calling card he possesses in attacking areas, with his tireless running and tracking back a close second. If his abilities have hallmarks of anyone on Bury’s books, it would actually be Craig Jones.
This point is borne out by Humphrey’s proclivity and comfort when performing defensive duties. Whilst he probably won’t quite be as effective in the air or in the tackle as his new teammate, he is quicker in a foot race than most opponents he will face, which could help mask some of the weaker elements of his game. He is unlikely to threaten the goalscoring charts with a 1:20 ratio in his career to date, but he might be a better option to use when the Shakers have a lead to protect than his more adventurous and potent comrades.
Whilst I don’t think he will start the season as first choice on the right, he will provide competition for Ismail and not just be a carbon copy of the Albanian when he is called upon, which will help keep the opposition guessing and change tack. Fans from his previous clubs have been effusive in their praise of the battling qualities, effort and endeavour he provides and that will go a long to winning round the Shakers’ faithful. He does have that bit of quality too but the key will be keeping him fit and he represents a riskier prospect than almost every other target acquired thus far for that reason.