It’s seven years since the finest moment of South Tynesider David Foley’s professional football career.
It doesn’t seem that long ago to him, though. The memories are fresh in his mind.
I turned around, took a touch and just thought, ‘I’m going to hit this!’David Foley
A 21-year-old Foley and his Hartlepool United team-mates were 1-0 up against Premier League side Stoke City in the FA Cup third round.
They were set for a nervy final 15 minutes of holding on against Tony Pulis’ side until Foley’s dramatic, glorious intervention.
Receiving the ball 35 yards out with his back to goal, there was only one thing on the South Shields-born forward’s mind.
He controlled it, swivelled and dribbled before letting fly from 30 yards. It was dipping into the top corner – and past fellow South Tynesider Steve Simonsen, who was in goal for Stoke – from the moment it left his boot.
Victoria Park went wild as Pools’ passage into the fourth round – which they have not reached since – was secured.
Foley, who now plays for hometown club South Shields in the Northern League, will never forget his big moment.
“It certainly doesn’t seem that long ago!”, he said. “We had a shortage of strikers that week, and I was the only one available on the bench.
“Michael Mackay, who is also in the Northern League now with Consett, got injured in the first 20 minutes, and (manager) Chris Turner put me on.
“I remember touching the ball almost straightaway to settle any nerves, and I was feeling confident going into the second half.
“We battered them after we scored our first goal, and then came my goal. Ben Clark headed it to me in midfield. I turned around, took a touch and just thought, ‘I’m going to hit this!’
“It couldn’t have gone any better, and flew right into the top corner from 30 yards.”
Having also scored in a win over West Brom in the League Cup earlier in the season, Foley gained a reputation as a giant-killer.
It was the strike against Stoke which saw him grab national headlines, though.
He added: “I got lots of attention after that goal. I seemed to be in every paper that weekend, and on the back pages.
“The following week, I started because of it at Oldham, and it all went a bit downhill from there.
“At the time, though, it was a bit of a welcome to professional football for me.”
Foley still holds the distinction of being Hartlepool’s youngest-ever player, having made his debut aged 16 in 2003.
He left in 2010 for Puerto Rico Islanders, and had a successful two-year spell in the Carribbean before moving to American side Fort Lauderdale Strikers, where he ended his professional career after struggling with injury.
The forward, now 28, feels he could have achieved more in his time at Hartlepool.
He said: “My time there was good, and I was ready for it in terms of my ability, but mentally I wasn’t ready.
“I wish I was as mature as I am now, because I would have been a much better player. I would have handled it a lot better. I’m older and wiser now, and it’s frustrating to look back on at times, because I could have ended up doing so much more.”
Pools will always hold a special place in his heart, though.
“Every week, Hartlepool is still the first score I look out for,” he added. “That will probably never change.
“When I was there, Hartlepool were cruising. We got to the play-off final to get into the Championship.
“They seem to have struggled for a few years, which is a shame to see.”
Hartlepool host Derby tomorrow in the FA Cup third round, hoping to make round four for the first time since Foley’s heroics.
Their former youngster said: “It will be a tough game, because Derby are flying in the Championship, but the fans get behind you even more for cup games like this.
“You never know. Stoke were flying when we played them, and we beat them, so fingers crossed they can cause another upset.”