City full-back Russell Martin could yet be handed fresh reasons to celebrate this summer as speculation mounts of an imminent Scottish international call-up.
It has already been quite a season for the 25-year-old. Not only did he play every minute of every game for the Canaries this season, but yesterday found himself only pipped to the Player of the Season post by skipper Grant Holt.
The fact that Scotland boss Craig Levein was in the crowd at Portman Road to witness Martin score City’s fourth goal in that remarkable 5-1 derby triumph – in itself a master-class in the art of the over-lapping full-back – spoke volumes, as Levein made the long trip south ahead of the Carling Nations Cup games against Wales and Republic of Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin at the end of the month.
Given the manner in which Martin finished the season – and the confidence that flows through his game – he looks an odds-on certainty to earn his first, full international call-up this summer.
“I knew he [Levein] was at the game,” said the City vice-skipper, who could hardly have wished for a better stage upon which to demonstrate his blossoming form and fortune.
“So – fingers crossed. If it happens it will be nice; if not, I’ll keep working hard and see what happens in the future.”
Though born in Brighton, Martin comes from solid Scottish stock via his Scots-born father, Dean. Having one P Lambert for a boss – first at Wycombe Wanderers and now, of course, in Norfolk – must also help his cause.
“I think the Gaffer has been aware of the Scottish connection. When I was at Wycombe, the Under-21s approached him then. So, I think he knows that my Dad was born there and maybe he’s had a word with someone and it’s gone from there.”
The international retirement of the ageless Graham Alexander in 2009 has left the right-back berth up for grabs. Spurs’ Alan Hutton has been in pole position, with Sunderland’s Phil Bardsley, Rangers’ Steven Whittaker and Celtic’s Mark Wilson also in the running.
Hutton’s last competitive game was actually Scotland’s recent 2-0 home defeat to Brazil in March. Days later he tore a cartilage training with Spurs and, after surgery, was ruled out for the rest of the season. Boss Harry Redknapp will not be expecting his £9 million full-back to be involved in a trip to Dublin at the end of the month.
Hence, opportunity now knocks for Martin to stake his claim ahead of next season’s crucial 2012 European Championship qualifiers by when he will be a fully-fledged Premiership player. To get that call off Levein would be the icing on the cake, surely?
“It would be brilliant – absolutely. To be involved would be an honour. But as I say, if I’m not then I’ll keep working hard and hope that it’ll come one day.”
In the meantime, it was simply a case of soaking up another famous afternoon in Carrow Road history as the Canaries returned to the Premier League after only arriving back in the Championship last summer.
These are heady days to be both a City player and a Canary supporter; days that will long linger in the memory for all concerned.
“We’re just absolutely knackered and elated,” he admitted, speaking straight after the lengthy celebrations that followed yesterday’s final home game of the season against Coventry City.
“You can’t really describe it,” he added. “It’s what you dream of as a kid. And I know it’s a cliché and all that stuff, but it is – all our dreams have come true.
“You want to play in one of the top leagues in the world and, hopefully, we’ll now get that chance.“
Martin won’t be short of supporters – close friends and family have been bitten by the Canary bug. His brother was at Fratton Park last Monday night to all-but rip the shirt off his brother’s back as the Canary defender disappeared into the delirious ranks of the Yellow and Green Army; someone else grabbed his shorts.
“They’re all converted,” laughed Martin. “They love it. They came up to Ipswich away, Portsmouth; they’re up again today. They’ve come up to a lot of games this year and, as I say, they love it. And they think the atmosphere here is second to none.
“It’s a proper football club, it’s a great football club and it’s an honour to play for it.”
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