City boss Paul Lambert today continued to look after those that look after him by handing right-back Russell Martin a new Canary contract.
As Norwich prepared to go in search of their seventh away win of the season in this weekend’s re-arranged Boxing Day clash with Crystal Palace, so news of Martin’s new deal came to dominate the day’s headlines.
The former Posh skipper – a former Lambert charge at Wycombe Wanderers – has emerged as one of the season’s star turns.
And not just defensively either. His winner against league leaders Queen’s Park Rangers and the late leveller against second-placed Cardiff City have kept Norwich firmly in the automatic promotion mix as the season heads for the final straight.
Hence, in part, the offer of the new deal; ‘You do well for me and I’ll do well for you…’ would appear to be the manager’s mantra with Martin’s fellow full-back Adam Drury having already agreed a new deal to keep at Carrow Road too.
“I think he deserves it for the way he’s been playing. He’s come from Posh and has done really well,” the City chief told the club’s official website this morning.
“He’s a top professional in terms of training and the way he plays the game.”
Martin’s influence in the dressing room can also be gauged by the fact that he has been handed the captain’s armband this season in the absence of regular skipper Grant Holt.
“Playing under this manager, at this club and with the players I have around me I feel like I have improved and hopefully people can see that,” said Martin (Russell), after settling into his stride by mid-autumn and never really looking back.
Now – like Drury before him – he is clearly hoping that he can prove another popular – and long-lasting – import from London Road.
“This new contract gives me a platform to continue that and the fans have been great since I’ve been here and I’m hopefully here for a few more years to come,” he told www.canaries.co.uk.
Andrew Crofts – like Martin a dark horse for the Player of the Season Trophy this campaign – was, likewise, a former skipper at Brighton; ditto Michael Nelson at Hartlepool.
It is one of the strengths of this current Canary squad that Lambert has filled it with ‘leaders of men’ – a phrase that ex-boss Glenn Roeder would often repeat, but rarely actually deliver on.
With young Gunners starlet Henri Lansbury back in the Canary fold after the two clubs agreed a loan deal till the end of the season and Andrew Surman back in training again – albeit too soon for tomorrow’s trip to London – Lambert has a fully-fit squad to select from.
Which, you sense, is just where he’d want to be going into the business end of the season; this month’s loan exits have also enabled the Canary chief to hone his squad numbers down into a hardened, battle-ready crew – all set fair for the last, mad dash to the finishing line.
Once, of course, Championship safety is secured via the next three available points – be they at Palace tomorrow or at home to Millwall on Tuesday night.
The Canaries have sold out their full allocation of tickets for the much-loved trip to Selhurst Park – the Yellow and Green Army will be 2,700-strong as they head into the depths of South-East London for another big day out.
If team and supporters come together again as they did at Bramall Lane last weekend, then the Norfolk side could confirm their status as the best travellers in this division – on and off the park.
Since the two teams last met, ex-Town chief George Burley and the exotic figure of ex-Holland star Edgar Davids have both departed – leaving Dougie Freedman in charge.
Freedman – so often the scourge of City in years gone by – has already dipped his toe in the New Year transfer market by re-recruting young Everton striker James Vaughan.
All with a little help, it appears, byt the new ‘social media’ tools of the age.
“At one stage a deal looked very unlikely because Vaughany had a few options,” admitted Freedman, to the South London Press this week.
“He could have chosen somebody else, and it looked like he might do that.
“But we kept working away and I know the fans sent lots of tweets to try and get him back and I’m grateful for that. A lot of people did their jobs to get this one done “