As a 17-year-old just starting out at Oxford United, Chris Hackett scored his first senior goal against Northampton Town. Now, 12 years later, he finds himself preparing for the new season with the Cobblers after joining them this summer.
“I was playing right midfield and it was a bit of a fluke goal actually,” says Hackett recalling that day when he made his first home start for the U’s at their old Manor Ground, helping his side to a 3-1 win.
“I took on the left back and hit it from outside the box, and it went in at the goalkeeper’s near post. It was a good debut for me and when you are that young it’s something that you remember, massively.”
Since then, Hackett’s career has taken several varied twists and turns, including a trial with French giants Marseille in 2005 and a short stint in the Scottish Premier League with Hearts the following year.
He also helped Millwall to promotion from League One to the Championship two years ago, but has suffered problems with injuries as well that saw him in and out of the side at the New Den.
Loan spells at Exeter City and Wycombe Wanderers accounted for most of his playing time last season before being released by Millwall when his contract expired at the end of the campaign.
Hackett has resolved to take something from the various highs and lows he has experienced in his career, saying: “It improves you as a player and as a person, and develops you massively on and off the pitch.
“I wouldn’t change any moments in my career because it all improves you. Hopefully I can bring that experience to the squad and the pitch.
"There are lots of players here who are similar and have a lot of experience in the game, and hopefully we can all bring a bit of that to the table.”
Northampton boss Aidy Boothroyd has been chasing the winger for some time, having initially made enquiries about his availability during the January transfer.
Hackett was immediately impressed by Boothroyd’s positivity after speaking to him, as well as his desire to build a winning team. That, says the 29-year-old, starts with the pre-season friendlies which begin this Saturday away to Corby Town.
“It’s all about getting the winning mentality and the manager has said that from the start,” said Hackett.
“Whether it’s a friendly or a league or cup game, you’ve got to get that winning mentality.
"Once you get used to it then it become a habit and that’s what the manager wants to install in the club and to build into the season. That’s what you need if you want to get promoted after 46 games.”