Captain Marvel, Micky Barron, hopes the 2005 final won’t be the last time Hartlepool United find themselves on the brink of the Championship.
The former Pools player, coach and caretaker manager insists he isn’t bitter at the last-gasp defeat to Sheffield Wednesday, with Pools just eight minutes away from promotion.
Barron said the team and the town were on the “crest of a wave” and enjoying every moment of their journey together, one that ultimately ended in an agonising defeat.
But Barron hopes the club will be able to climb back up the league ladder and get another chance at promotion.
“If you think now about Hartlepool United in the Championship it sounds crazy but we were on the crest of a wave,” reflected Barron.
“I don’t know whether it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing that we got so near the Championship, I hope not, we just enjoyed ourselves.
“I still remember speaking to Spike [Graeme Lee] after the game and a lot of the Sheff Wed players were worried about whether they were going to get a contract.
“We were in the bar with our family and friends and he remarked how it looked like we had won because we were all happy.
“But that’s what we did, we enjoyed being together.
“That had been built up over the previous seasons and we used to have such a laugh, Tuesday afternoons in Durham would be regular and everyone would be there enjoying each other’s company.
“I think that was when the friendships were really made – it sounds a horrible cliché but they are like family.
“Ritchie [Humphreys] was our organiser, if we were doing anything he would sort it out.
“I read what Coops [Neale Cooper] had said in the Mail that we managed ourselves and if anyone stepped out of line, the other lads put them back in line.
“I wouldn’t say Coops had an easy job but on that side of things he had a great bunch of players to work with.”
For Barron, it was one of the proudest moments in his career but he almost missed the Cardiff showpiece with a thigh injury.
The club captain was a major doubt but started the final, knowing he wouldn’t last the full match – with Darren Craddock coming on after an hour.
Not that Barron could remember much about the moments before the game though as he proudly walked the Pools squad out of the tunnel on to the turf that warm, spring day.
“I remember the crowd and the noise in the warm-up,” added Barron.
“But walking out, the handshakes, coin-toss and huddles?
“I couldn’t tell you a thing about it.
“But I was definitely worried I was going to miss the match.
“We trained before we went to the hotel and my thigh was very sore.
“Both me and Tinks [Mark Tinkler] were both struggling and when we were at the hotel the fear was ‘I’m not going to be at that game’ was very hard to deal with.
“Luckily the physios got me out there but I think I always knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t going to last the whole game.
“But I think it would have been tough to have not given it a go.”
Chester-le-Street-born Barron spent 17 years at the club between 1996 and 2013 playing 374 times for Pools.
He, more than most, knows what promotion would have meant.
But he also looks back with a tremendous amount of pride.
“I’m sort of a believer now that what’s meant to happen is meant to happen,” added Barron.
“It was one of those things, there’s nothing you can do about it now.
“Whether things might have changed for us, we’ll never know.”