Meet the forward who went from Hartlepool reserves to Puerto Rico

âÂÂI didnâÂÂt know where it was at first. People think itâÂÂs all mud huts and shacks, I mean I did too, but itâÂÂs not. ItâÂÂs like Newcastle but with nice weather.âÂÂ

This is how David Foley describes his adopted home of Puerto Rico.

A small island just east of the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico is similar in size to the North East region of England which Foley departed nearly three years ago. Now fully settled in island life, the first question most ask him is simply 'how did you end up here?'

âÂÂAt the time I was playing for HartlepoolâÂÂs reserves,â Foley said, âÂÂMy first team chances were limited and it was really beginning to frustrate me. I think at the time IâÂÂd have accepted any get out really.âÂÂ

ThatâÂÂs where his current manager and former Portsmouth defender Adrian Whitbread comes in. âÂÂI was actually back home for Christmas because of the way NASLâÂÂs calender works,â Whitbread explains, âÂÂI was based in Essex but made the long drive up to a very cold Hartlepool to watch a few players, including David.âÂÂ

By half-time, Whitbread had seen enough, and the two clubs entered negotiations to have Foley's Hartlepool contract terminated early. Once concluded, Foley began the long journey to his new home - but not without some reservation: âÂÂI wasnâÂÂt sure when I first came over, but now IâÂÂm settled in I really enjoy it here. Just playing regular football and being an important member of the team has been a great feeling.âÂÂ

Foley also credits his team-mates for aiding him in the smooth transition to island life: âÂÂThanks to my teammates it feels like a second home. ThereâÂÂs a lot of lads in my shoes that have no one else here but their teammates. We actually refer to each other as brothers- itâÂÂs that close knit a camp.âÂÂ

The new culture also included a new language. While neither Foley or his manager claim fluency in Puerto RicoâÂÂs first language of Spanish, Whitbread does feel more confident than when he first arrived, something his striker jokingly contests. âÂÂI think the gaffer just gets people to write it down for him to say,â says Foley with a laugh.

Champions League qualification

Despite describing his own Spanish as âÂÂthe ability to say some bad wordsâÂÂ, this hasnâÂÂt inhibited FoleyâÂÂs play. A vital part of the Islanders team that recently qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League his performances have not gone unnoticed.

January saw him earn a trial with the New England Revolution, currently home to former Derby County midfielder Benny Feilhaber. âÂÂIt was a bit of a shambles really,â Foley admits with a disappointed tone to his voice, âÂÂI was played out of position, and I picked up a foot injury on the second day. It was a frustrating experience but a good one. I know I can play at that level, so itâÂÂs about waiting for another opportunity should one come.âÂÂ

Keen to try his hand in MLS, the striker also has desires a return home. Describing his years in English football as leaving a sour taste, Foley believes he has unfinished business in his homeland, âÂÂIâÂÂve been away for two-and-a-half years so itâÂÂs starting from scratch, but it is something I want to try and do eventually.â He said.

Since arriving in the Caribbean, he has also fielded a number of questions from fellow professionals at home about life in Puerto Rico. âÂÂA lot of the younger lads have enquired about coming out here to play,â He explains, âÂÂItâÂÂs a massive step though. When I came here I had nothing to lose, I was a young lad with no family commitments. I didnâÂÂt have kids , I wasnâÂÂt married, I was very career driven.âÂÂ

A big step it may have been, but he believes it has served as a huge benefit to his development both on and off the pitch, as he explains, âÂÂAt Hartlepool I was still living with my Mum and Dad, out here IâÂÂm very much on my own so I think in that sense it has matured me a lot.âÂÂ

Foley is not completely isolated from reminders of home in Puerto Rico. Former Brighton and Manchester City goalkeeper Richard Martin joined the club in 2011, giving the Islanders squad a pair of Englishmen. âÂÂI actually room with the other goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. Rich is a bit loved up, actually. â He says pausing to laugh, âÂÂHeâÂÂs engaged to a Puerto Rican girl after only his second year.âÂÂ

Foley has an engagement of his own, with former England international David Beckham. âÂÂWeâÂÂve been drawn against LA Galaxy in the CONCACAF Champions League again.â He says, rather nonchalantly.

Last time the sides met, the Islanders shocked the Galaxy with a 4-1 victory at the Home Depot Centre in the first leg. Foley scored that evening and is hoping for a repeat performance, and possible a souvenir from his trip: âÂÂIâÂÂm definitely going to try and get his shirt. HeâÂÂs the player of my era. I grew up watching him and I admire him a lot., but I bet thereâÂÂll be a long line.â He jokingly says before asking, âÂÂMaybe you could get in touch and ask him to give it to me?âÂÂ

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