Former keeper - 'My best years were at Derby County'

Derby County stadium entrance

Former Arsenal and Sunderland goalkeeper Mart Poom confessed his best years in England was at Derby County

Mart Poom confessed, while he was talking to the Daily Mail regarding the England and Estonia game, that he played his best years at Derby County.

The iconic Estonian is now a coach with the national team and will be urging his players to take their chance in the spotlight on Sunday, similarly to what he did against Scotland 17 years prior.

"It was all very bizarre. That’s how I can about my chance and you never know if we had played the original game if that chance would have come. That’s how life goes. You have to take chances when you get them.

"I will say the same thing when our lads go out against England. This is a great chance. Go out and make a name for yourself.

"We were playing in our old stadium and the temporary floodlights had been brought in from Finland.

"Scotland started to complain but we never believed they would change the kick-off time on the day of the game. We got up and trained in the morning. Then we heard the kick-off had been brought forward to 3pm. But no-one could believe it was possible. We were at our training camp [60 miles from the city] and all the kit was there. We stuck to the original plan and went to the stadium for a kick off at 6:45pm.

"It was a mistake by UEFA. We were a new nation and they thought they could do what they wanted with us. At first, Scotland thought they had won. But common sense appeared and they made us replay."

The game was scheduled four months later, in Monaco, and Jim Smith – Derby County’s manager – was searching for a new goalkeeper. Smith, who had previously had Poom at Portsmouth in the early 90s, asked Scotland’s goalkeeping coach Alan Hodgkinson to take another look at the Estonian.

Poom went out and put in an outstanding performance in a goalless draw with Scotland, and Hodgkinson’s report sparked the move to Derby County.

The goalkeeper became a favourite with the fans, renowned as one of their best ever keepers, and spent six wonderful years at Pride Park, but broke hearts upon his return with Sunderland.

"That was a special moment, because of the circumstances," said Poom. "When I left Derby I didn’t really have a chance to say goodbye and on my first time back I scored an equaliser for Sunderland in the last minute.

"I didn’t really celebrate but it was a great feeling. The goal was one thing but the reception after the final whistle was something else. I got a standing ovation from both sets of fans. I had a special relationship with the club."

Poom added: "My best years were probably at Derby and of course I am really honoured to be able to say I met Her Majesty three times. We exchanged a few pleasantries. She asked how long I’d in England."

Poom is held up in high regard with Derby County fans and even finished ahead of Peter Shilton when supporters of the Rams voted for their best ever goalkeeper, finishing second only to Colin Boulton.

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