After their productive partnership ended after just one season at Shrewsbury Town, it is understandable Chris Humphrey and Grant Holt feel they have unfinished business together.
They contributed 30 goals as Shrewsbury reached the League Two play-off final in 2009, before Holt secured a £400,000 move to Norwich City. Humphrey, who was a perfect foil for the striker from the wing, left soon afterwards for Motherwell.
“He got 28 (goals) and I got two!” noted an honest Humphrey yesterday. ‘To be fair I think I got seven or eight assists so I got him that move I think. He always says to me that he got it himself, but I’m not having that.”
The pair have reunited at Hibs, with Humphrey becoming manager Neil Lennon’s first signing of the transfer window after Kris Commons joined last month on an emergency loan from Celtic.
Holt’s presence at Easter Road helped convince Humphrey to return to Scotland although his old Shrewsbury team-mate has found the going hard in the Championship, scoring just three times in 17 appearances.
But manager Neil Lennon clearly hopes the synergy still exists between Humphrey and Holt, pictured right, starting with tonight’s top-of-the-table clash with Dundee United.
Humphrey, who agreed a deal to terminate his contract with Preston North End last week, is confident he and Holt can quickly get back into the groove.
“Listen, I had a great time with him at Shrewsbury,” said Humphrey, who has signed until the end of the season at least. “I know his game and what he’s all about. He’s a handful but a great lad as well. It’s been easy to feel my way in with him here. I’m really looking forward to playing with him.
“I definitely feel we can get our partnership up and running again,” he added. “The way everyone’s been training here I feel that I’m getting to know the way the boys play and what I need to look out for on the pitch. I’ve got that straight away so that’s helped me settle in. I’m really looking forward to playing again.”
Humphrey whetted the appetite of the Hibs fans when asked what supporters can expect from a player they probably remember burning up the pitch with his pace from his time at Motherwell.
“My pace is my main weapon – at Shrewsbury I was very, very quick, now I might just be very quick!” he said. “I just want to try and bring some pace to the team and try and link up with the lads. I see (Martin) Boyle is very fast, as is Jason (Cummings). It will be nice to link up with them plus with Holty in the box as well anything can happen. I’m just really excited. It’s nice to have that excitement back into playing again.”
Humphrey hasn’t featured for Preston since October but was a regular in the side in recent seasons, after switching from Motherwell. He’d like to put down roots in Edinburgh, a desire helped by his wife, Kerry, having been bowled over by the capital’s charms.
“Anything can happen,” he said. “I have not put a marker down saying I am only staying here till the end of the season. I have settled in really well and if we can get back to the Premiership, then why not stay? It would have to be something out of this world and amazing for me to go.
“It’s a massive club. I knew all about them when I was up here with Motherwell so it is not my intention to leave straightaway, no.”
Much hinges on his own performances as well as how successful Hibs are in securing promotion back to the Premiership at the third attempt. Humphrey is certain he can provide an instant impact, perhaps even as quickly as tonight, when United will be wary of his pace.
“It’s completely different to the first time I came up to Scotland, because I know what it’s all about,” he said. “I know Holty as well. So it’s made it easier, and the lads were great and very welcoming and you just want to hit the ground running.”
Hibs fans’ memories of Humphrey might stem from a game in which he left them dismayed. Many more than just Hibs and Motherwell fans will remember the day in 2010 when the teams shared an incredible 12 goals. Humphrey came on with Hibs winning 6-3 and helped secure an unlikely point for Motherwell, who also missed a penalty. Lukas Jutkiewicz grabbed Motherwell’s sixth with a stunning left-foot shot in time added on.
“We also came back from losing at half-time to beat Hibs and then went on our Christmas do (in Edinburgh), so that’s a good memory too,” said Humphrey, when asked for his memories of playing against Hibs. “They are the two games I remember and obviously the 6-6 game was an amazing game.
“It was like ‘don’t bring me on please, I don’t want to come on in this!’ But we brought it back to 6-6. And we missed a penalty. But those are the games you want to be involved in.”