Non-league football: Richards relishing his return to Vale Park
MARC Richards has been looking at Port Vale's progress this season with a degree of envy.
But the striker, who returns to Vale Park with Chesterfield tomorrow, insists he has no regrets about leaving in the summer.
Richards, ninth in Vale's all-time list of goalscorers, rejected the chance to extend his five-year stay in Burslem at the end of May.
Things haven't exactly gone to plan since then for the front man, whose has been frustrated by injury problems.
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And the Spireites are stuck in mid-table, while Vale are flying high and could go top of the table tomorrow.
Richards, who has scored three goals in five games since returning to full fitness, admits he's "jealous as hell" at the position of his former team.
But he's happy to focus on his new challenge and insists Chesterfield, now under the leadership of former Accrington Stanley boss Paul Cook, still have promotion aspirations themselves.
"My time at Vale was probably one of the best of my career and I've been delighted that the lads have been doing so well," he said.
"It's great to see old friends enjoying success. They're second and I'm jealous as hell because we want to be up there too.
"I took a gamble when I moved to Chesterfield and I was chasing the dream in many ways.
"But, at the moment, Port Vale are coming up trumps."
The 30-year-old has watched a couple of games at Vale Park this season, and still keeps in touch with some of the players.
His affinity for the club remains and he's looking forward to his playing return.
"I'm a Port Vale fan at heart, but I've no point to prove to anybody. The people there and the supporters know what I did for the club," he added.
"I'm expecting some stick – that's part and parcel of football. There will always be a handful of fans who think the worst, but I'll enjoy the occasion."
Richards, who still lives in Rugeley, will be desperate to impress, but insists he'll tone down his celebrations if he does score.
"That might depend on the Vale crowd, but I certainly wouldn't go overboard out of respect," he said.
"We've picked up recently and we're now chasing the leading pack. We want to be in the play-off zone by the end of the season, so we'll be going for a win."
Then Vale boss Martin Foyle signed Richards from Barnsley in 2007.
He was soon made club captain and went on to finish as leading scorer in four of his five seasons in black and white, netting a total of 76 goals in 202 appearances.
But despite current boss Micky Adams being keen to keep him, Richards opted for a new challenge.
"I've got a young family to support and, with Vale in administration at the time, it was an opportunity I couldn't turn down," he said.
"People have been saying that I left for the money, but it wasn't like that.
"Several clubs had come in for me before, but I stayed loyal. I didn't jump ship at the first chance I had."
Richards was hoping to get up and running quickly at his new home, but instead endured a frustrating start in Derbyshire.
"There was a lot of pressure to produce the goods, but the team was struggling and I went six or seven games without scoring," he explained.
"I then injured my ankle, which kept me out for six weeks, and when I came back I then got a hamstring injury straight away.
"Paul Cook then came in to replace John Sheridan and things started to change. Fingers crossed, it looks like we have turned the corner.
"I can see this being a real ding-dong battle and, hopefully, we'll come out on top."