Former Estonia goalkeeper Mart Poom has spoken about the “special moment” when he scored the only goal of his career.
Poom, who is now retired, enjoyed a 21-year career in professional football which included spells at Arsenal, Derby and Sunderland, where he gained cult hero status.
Like most Estonians growing up in the 1980s, Poom played basketball which was the country’s number one sport at the time, and said playing basketball greatly improved his hand-eye coordination.
But before becoming a fan-favourite at Derby and Sunderland, the former Estonian international endured a difficult period after being signed by Portsmouth and said he suffered a culture shock on arrival to the south coast.
“At the beginning it was very tough. It was a massive difference in England (to Estonia). I didn’t play as many games I would’ve liked either, but I continued to work really hard and I improved,” he told Raf Diallo and Ronan Mullen on this week's Team 33.
You can listen to the full interview with Mart Poom on the podcast player or on iTunes:
Poom also detailed how he almost signed for Man Utd, but said Derby weren’t willing to let him go. “It’s true they were interested. They made an offer but Derby turned it down. It was at a time where they were looking to sign a second goalkeeper to compete with Fabien Barthez. They ended up signing Roy Carroll and Ricardo from Spain.”
One of the most famous moments of the 46-year-old’s career came in September 2003. Poom had just left Derby after five years. to move up to the north-east to join Mick McCarthy’s Sunderland and on his first return to Derby, he scored a 90th minute equaliser.
“That was a special moment because as a goalkeeper you don’t expect to score, especially against your old club on your first time back after leaving,” he said.
“I remember it well – We were 1-0 down in injury time and we had just won a corner. I looked over at the bench to Mick McCarthy and they told me to go up. Sean Thornton played the ball to the far post and I managed to get a good connection and it was a great moment.
“I didn’t celebrate, I ran straight back to my goal and it’s quite funny looking back because all the other players were chasing me to celebrate,” added Poom.
At the final whistle, both sets of fans showed their appreciation for Poom by clapping him off the pitch, something he’ll always remain grateful for. “It was amazing to get a standing ovation from both sets of fans. It was also a very emotional moment.”
He also recalled a funny moment after the game when Mick McCarthy was close to leaving him behind in Derby, despite being the hero on the night.
“After the game, I had to do interviews and I saw some old faces, and I remember Mick McCarthy was going to leave me behind, so I had to chase after the team bus to get back to Sunderland,” he said while laughing.
The goalkeeper worked under former Ireland manager McCarthy at Sunderland for three years and says he has “total respect” for his former boss.
“He was one of the best managers I worked with. What I liked about Mick was that you always knew where you stood with him. He was always good at explaining his decisions which players liked.”
Since retiring, Poom has been working with the Estonian national team as a goalkeeping coach.