Who Were Ya? Mart Poom
The Republic of Estonia’s favourite son, Mart Poom, was a Premier League stalwart in his second stint in England and was his country’s number one from 1992 until his international retirement in 2009. So much was his status in Estonia, Poom was bestowed an Order of the White Star in recognition of his services to the state.
Funnily enough the list of famous Estonians does not exactly boast household names and Poom may well be the most famous product of the tiny nation on the Baltic Sea, but spent the majority of his time on these shores hovering around the lower echelons of the Premier League.
Starting his career just prior to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Poom began his career at Flora, who would also happen to be the final club he played for outside of England, before jolting around clubs in Estonia and Finland.
In 1994 Poom set off on his first jaunt to the UK, signing for First Division Portsmouth. The distinctive Eastern European could be forgiven for abandoning a dream of playing in the Premier League after just seven league and cup appearances in two seasons at Fratton Park, however his loan spell at former club Flora would lead to a move to top flight Derby County in 1996.
Linking up with the bald-eagle, Jim Smith, turned out to be the greatest move of his career, becoming a Derby legend and a monument to maverick goalkeepers of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
Becoming a fans’ favourite at Pride Park, Poom remained number one until Derby’s relegation from the Premier League in 2002. Returning to the top division with Sunderland the following season, he suffered the indignity of back-to-back relegations .
Despite Poom’s seven-year spell with The Rams, his most revered moment at Pride Park came as a Sunderland player. With Mick McCarthy’s men 1-0 down in stoppage time, the Estonian Gordon Banks met Sean Thornton’s corner to nestle a bullet header into the top corner from the edge of the six-yard box.
Local radio commentator, Simon Crabtree here coined the term ‘The Poominator’ as he bellowed down the mic in delirium as Sunderland clawed a point with a hand (or a head) from their own ‘stopper.
He was thereby by known by his new epithet, that was until his bizarre loan move to Arsenal after Sunderland’s promotion in 2005 as cover for Jens Lehman and Manuel Almunia in their final season at Highbury and their fabled Champions League campaign.
One permanent season at Arsenal (featuring just once in the league) and two seasons at Championship Watford later, The Poominator called it a day on his illustrious career, which saw him become an icon in his home country and a member of the esteemed ‘Scoring Goalkeepers’ Club’.