Determined de­fender is nat­u­ral leader

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Chris Dunlavy

TONY Humes may not be a house­hold name. He may be a man­age­rial rookie. But to for­mer Wrex­ham boss Brian Flynn, the de­fender will al­ways be the most im­por­tant player of his ca­reer. Cash-strapped and strug­gling, the Welsh min­nows fin­ished the 1990-91 sea­son rock bot­tom of the en­tire Foot­ball League. Only Foot­ball League ex­pan­sion pre­vented rel­e­ga­tion to the Con­fer­ence.

But then came that FA Cup match against Ar­se­nal, that screamer from Mickey Thomas and, with the pro­ceeds of that mag­i­cal run, a hope­ful £40,000 bid for a man who should have been way out of Wrex­ham’s league.

“It was hard work,” said Flynn. “You’ve got to re­mem­ber as well that we were in the Fourth Di­vi­sion, and Ip­swich were on their way to the top flight. Tony was 25, at the peak of his ca­reer and I was ask­ing him to drop down three leagues.

“It took a lot of per­suad­ing, es­pe­cially be­cause he was up­root­ing a young fam­ily. But I’d watched him a lot of times, knew what he was ca­pa­ble of and I tried ev­ery­thing I could to make him sign.”

It worked and, with Humes form­ing an im­pen­e­tra­ble bar­rier along­side Brian Carey at cen­tre­half, Wrex­ham won pro­mo­tion to the third tier in 1993. There they would re­main, with Humes go­ing on to play over 250 times be­fore in­jury forced his re­tire­ment in 1999. To this day, he is a regular in any Dragons all-time XI.


“Tony was hugely in­flu­en­tial for us and, with­out doubt, the best sign­ing I’ve ever made,” added Flynn,who also man­aged Swansea and Don­caster.“He was the cat­a­lyst for the good times we had.

“He was a model pro­fes­sional,a per­fect club cap­tain and a born win­ner on the pitch. As soon as he came to Wrex­ham I felt he was cap­taincy ma­te­rial – he’s def­i­nitely a leader of men.My only re­gret is that I never got my hands on him when he was younger.”

De­spite the Port­man Road pedi­gree, there was no silk to Humes’ game. He was no lower league Rio Fer­di­nand. Yet what the big Ge­ordie lacked in raw abil­ity and tech­nique, he made up for with tenac­ity, com­mit­ment and blood­y­minded de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“He led by ex­am­ple,” said Gareth Owen, a team-mate at Wrex­ham.“He worked so hard at his game and was al­ways en­cour­ag­ing every­body when he played. He’s also got an ‘over-my-dead­body’ at­ti­tude which is great to have as a de­fender.”

Yet if Humes’ ap­proach to the game was all blood and thun­der, his ap­proach to coach­ing would prove far more pro­gres­sive.

Af­ter a spell at Wrex­ham’s academy, he re­joined Ip­swich in 2001 as an un­der­study to youth devel­op­ment mae­stro Bryan Klug – the man who had mas­ter­minded the emer­gence of Kieron Dyer, Dar­ren Bent, Ti­tus Bram­ble and Dar­ren Am­brose.

And when Klug stepped up to be­come as­sis­tant to Jim Mag­ilton in 2006,he handed Humes the keys to the fac­tory. His meth­ods, then cut­ting edge, are now an in­dus­try stan­dard.

He em­pha­sised tech­nique over size and speed, warned par­ents not to put pres­sure on their chil­dren or place un­due im­por­tance on re­sults.

“We don’t be­lieve that those young teams have to win,” he said. “Rather, that they learn from what they have been do­ing and the im­por­tance of de­vel­op­ing.”

The re­sults, though not up to Klug’s stan­dards, were nev­er­the­less im­pres­sive; Jor­dan Rhodes and Con­nor Wick­ham both rolled off the pro­duc­tion line, the lat­ter even­tu­ally go­ing to Sun­der­land for a club-record £8m.

That, though, was not enough for the Trac­tor Boys. Humes was sacked as part of a back­room clearout in Jan­uary 2009 and sub­se­quently moved his en­tire op­er­a­tion down the road to Colch­ester United.

Again, it bore fruit with the likes of Alex Gil­bey and Drey Wright now first-team reg­u­lars. As, at last, is Humes him­self, pro­moted to manager in Septem­ber fol­low­ing the sacking of manager Joey Dunne and cur­rently bat­tling to save the U’s from rel­e­ga­tion to League Two.

“I was de­lighted for Tony when he got the Colch­ester job,” said Flynn. “It was the path­way he’d been look­ing to go down. I think Tony has all the at­tributes needed to be a suc­cess as a manager. He un­der­stands things tac­ti­cally and he is very as­tute. And as I know well, he’s a nat­u­ral-born leader who com­mands re­spect.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

AS­TUTE: Colch­ester boss Tony Humes has the right at­tributes

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