If Hartlepool United’s youth side need any extra inspiration ahead of hosting Steven Gerrard’s Liverpool in the FA Youth Cup third round, they can get it by looking back 15 years.
They need to look to the night when Pools’ U18 side led the mighty Manchester United – and forced extra-time at Old Trafford – in the same competiton.
Today’s young Poolies beat Carlisle United 2-0 in the second round of the competition to set up a plum tie with Gerrard’s Anfield thoroughbreds.
And that match will spark memories of a fifth round 2002 FA Youth Cup clash at the Theatre of Dreams which so nearly saw an almighty shock.
Having knocked out Stoke City, Brentford and Crystal Palace, Matin Scott’s Pools side pushed a Red Devils team featuring the likes of Darren Fletcher, Phil Bardsley and Kieran Richardson all the way before succumbing 3-2 after 120 breathless minutes on the anniversary of the Munich disaster.
After a goalless first half, Stephen Manson gave Pools a shock lead shortly after the break, and Colin McKenzie’s 68th-minute goal – after Colin Heath and Richardson had put the hosts 2-1 up – was enough to force an extra 30 minutes.
Substitute David Poole popped up with a cruel 113th-minute winner as Scott’s boys fought to the end.
But where are the squad that graced the Old Trafford turf now?
Goalkeeper – Kevin Duncan
A hero in the third round after his penalty save from Brentford’s Jay Tabb won the shootout for Pools, Duncan was again in impressive form against the Red Devils.
But his Youth Cup heroics weren’t enough to earn him a first team starting berth. The young stopper joined Spennymoor on a work experience loan in September of 2003, before being released from Victoria Park in December of the same year.
He later played for Sunday League side Hebburn Iona among others.
Defender – Andy Watts
The full-back was a regular in the FA Youth Cup, despite only being a first year scholar.
Watts was regularly selected in the reserve squad, too, but couldn’t force his way into first-team contention.
He left the club in 2003 but struggled to forge a career in football.
Defender – John Brackstone
Cultured left-back Brackstone forged himself a strong career at Pools after the impressive FA Youth Cup run, with the youngster handed a first-team debut against Blackpool in 2003.
He went on to be handed a professional deal in 2004 and had a short run in the first team at full-back, but failed to hold down a regular starting place.
After his release from Pools in 2007, he went on to play for Darlington, Gateshead, Blyth Spartans and Bedlington Terriers before most recently plying his trade at Shildon.
Defender – Stuart Dixon
A key part of the Pools’ defence that kept two clean sheets en route to Old Trafford, Dixon failed to progress any further and was released from Pools just eight days after the meeting with Man United.
Defender – Darren Craddock
Another who fashioned a good career in football, the no-nonsense centre-back made his first team debut in 2003 in an FA Cup clash against Whitby Town.
After earning a professional deal in 2004, he went on to make 33 appearances over two years at Victoria Park while also spending time on loan at Whitby and York.
A permanent move to the Minstermen followed before he ended his career in non-league with time spent at Newcastle Blue Star and Blyth Spartans. His most recent club was Newton Aycliffe.
Midfielder – Antony Sweeney
A Pools legend and the third highest ranking appearance maker at the Vic, the youngster was already making waves in the first team when the Youth Cup tie at Old Trafford came about.
Sweeney signed his first professional deal in 2002 and spent a successful 12 years there, going on to make 444 appearances and being a part of some memorable moments for Pools including the run to the play-off final in 2004/05.
He departed for Carlisle United in 2014 but has since returned to the Vic, heading up the club’s academy.
Midfielder – Matty Robson
One of the star performers during the FA Youth Cup run, Robson’s fine form saw him handed a first team debut in 2002 before he was offered a professional contract in 2004.
That was the start of a five-year spell at Victoria Park which saw the left-sided player make 170 appearances before he turned down a new deal to join Carlisle United in 2009.
After his time at Brunton Park came to an end, Robson dropped into non-league and is currently a regular at Shildon.
Midfielder – Marc Batey
Batey joined Gateshead on a month’s loan before returning in time for Pools’ trip to Old Trafford.
And that was as good as it got for the midfielder whose closest first team’s stints came in friendlies against Billingham Town and Seaham Red Star.
Batey, who scored a crucial penalty in the 2-1 round two victory over Darlington, went on to be released by Pools before dropping into the Northern League – most noticeable playing a part in a successful Bedlington Terriers.
Midfielder – Lee Peachey
A not so peachy career. The midfielder could only establish himself as a reserve team regular before leaving the club.
Midfielder – Colin McKenzie
McKenzie famously scored the equaliser to take Pools into extra time at the Theatre of Dreams, only a minute after Kieran Richardson had given the Red Devils the lead.
The North Shields-born player was rewarded with a senior debut in the same year as Pools crashed out of the Football League Trophy following a 5-0 defeat at Tranmere Rovers.
A year later, his professional dream came to an end as he was released, later joining ex-teammate Batey at Bedlington.
Striker – Stephen Manson
Manson followed in almost identical fate to McKenzie.
The striker was also a scorer against Manchester United as Pools held the initiative for all but 15 minutes.
But his Old Trafford exploits failed to earn him a first-team opportunity as in 2003, his contract expired alongside McKenzie.
Manson later played against several ex Pools teammates in non-league after Bishop Auckland acquired his services.
Manager – Martin Scott
The orchestrator of the cup run, Martin Scott spent two seasons as assistant manager to Neale Cooper as Pools enjoyed the best two years of their history.
He stepped in as manager of the first team in 2005, though struggled to emulate his youth cup success.
The former Sunderland defender lasted just eight months after contributing to a side that slipped into League Two.
Scott later had coaching spells at Middlesbrough and Barnsley before helping joint-managers Graham Fenton and Lee Picton clinch a league and cup quadruple at South Shields – where he currently remains.