Seat at the FA's table for the old 'new Van Basten,' Ritchie Humphreys

New chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association happy to add another role to the busy life of a League Two table-topper

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The Independent Football

For Ritchie Humphreys, life just got busier. On top of his day job playing for League Two leaders Chesterfield and the three-week-old son occupying his time at home, the 35-year-old also has his new role as chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association to contend with – and with it a seat on Greg Dyke's Football Association commission examining the state of the English game.

"It's great that we've got a seat at the table along with everybody else from the industry to hopefully make positive strides in improving the national game and the national team," he tells The Independent – and there is one area of concern he will not hesitate to mention.

"We put a lot of money into youth education, youth football, youth coaching, but there's still a great fallout rate of scholars and young professionals that don't get to 21 still in the game," he reflects.

Humphreys knows only too well the unpredictability of a young player's path. As a teenage Sheffield Wednesday striker he was once dubbed the next Marco van Basten – though he is eager to explain that was the product of a journalistic misquotation after he scored in a pre-season fixture in Van Basten's home town, Utrecht, where Johan Cruyff was guest of honour. "The journalists asked him, 'What about the Wednesday No 9?'," says Humphreys. "I believe he said, 'It was a good goal. He may have a decent future.' From that it was Johan Cruyff saying I was the new Van Basten!"

He actually ended up as a left-back at Hartlepool, where he made a club-record 544 appearances, gaining a breadth of experience that should serve him well. "I've got the experience, playing in all four divisions and representing my country at under-21 level. I've seen a lot of highs and lows and hopefully I can reflect the wants and needs of our members."

Humphreys takes over the PFA post officially next month and applauds the effort of his predecessor Clarke Carlisle – "a really intelligent guy" – to shed light on "problems with gambling and alcoholism and mental illness". He says: "It used to be described as a sign of weakness when lads were down, but not in the modern way of thinking. Clarke did a fantastic documentary on that."

For Humphreys, the PFA has another vital function in helping players prepare an "exit strategy" and he is encouraged by the "uptake of [players] using the funding available to get that second career started". He adds: "Some of our members earn a vast amount but they are a small percentage. There's a high percentage who need re-education. The average career runs eight years."

Humphreys already has his Uefa 'A' coaching licence but his playing career runs on, 17 years after that Cruyff misquote and a spectacular volley on his first Hillsborough start against Aston Villa. "It was the same day that Beckham scored from the halfway line. If I'd had the capabilities to sustain that level I would have played there a lot longer. Looking at the fallout rate, I'm just delighted to have got to 35 still playing." Playing is just the half of it these days.

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