Jonathan Mitchell said it was like a “fairytale” after the Hartlepool-born goalkeeper made his professional debut at Victoria Park.
The 21-year-old was born and raised in Hartlepool, supporting them growing up, and made his debut in Derby’s 2-1 FA Cup win over Pools on Saturday.
Mitchell said: “It was brilliant.
“To make my debut here was a bit of a fairytale really.
“I’m a Hartlepool boy. I have been coming to this ground for a long time now so to play here was very nice, a bit of a special moment for me, but it is all about the team getting through to the next round really.”
Mitchell, a former High Tunstall College of Science pupil, moved to Derby in 2014 after leaving Newcastle United and admitted making his debut in Hartlepool made it even more special.
He said: “Mam and Dad, brother, sister, girlfriend and all my school mates were here.
“It was a nice moment that everybody could come and watch but you have got to put that all aside.
“You have to just think about the game, play the game and get through to the next round and in this case we did.”
Derby manager Paul Clement took over at the club last summer after a spell as Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at Real Madrid and Mitchell said it was a “brilliant moment” when we found out he’d be making his debut.
“I found out on Friday morning,” said the Hartlepool Cricket Club all-rounder.
“The boss told me just before training that I would be starting.
“I just tried to be focused for training, and tried to train well.
“We travelled up on Friday and then tried to get a good rest and look forward to the game and play well hopefully.”
The young keeper was largely untroubled during the game and could do nothing to stop Jake Gray’s fine volley, which opened the scoring for Pools.
Mitchell said: “I don’t think I had loads to do.
“I was helped out by a good back four in front of me.
“We had full internationals playing, they helped me out a lot.
“There was a couple of crosses I came for, maybe I should have come for a few more but it is a learning process as the games go on hopefully become even more confident playing and just keep going.”
The ’keeper said he had to put the sentiment surrounding the tie out of his mind during the game.
“You have got to be focused,” he said.
“If you are not focused in a game like this you will get put out of the competition or you will make mistakes.
“You have got to be 100 per cent focused, your attitude has got to be so good in these games.
“We have got to show that we are the better quality side and I think we did that with the two goals.”
Darren Bent’s late winner ensured Mitchell’s Derby reached the fourth round but he said he hasn’t thought about who they could face in the next round.
“It can go two ways, you can play against lesser teams and try to get as far as you can in the competition or you can prove yourself against the best teams.
“It is a fantastic competition, one of the best domestic competitions in the world so I’d be happy with anybody.”