New City hero Russell Martin was hoping that the power of positive talking could help the Canaries survive in the Red Devil’s den this afternoon as the Canaries brace themselves for a day out at Manchester United.
Under Paul Lambert’s watch Norwich have long recognised the power of positive thinking, but following Martin’s recent switch into the heart of that Canary rearguard so the Norfolk side might have found a way to talk their way out of trouble as the 25-year-old rises to the challenge of organising his defensive colleagues from the very heart of the action.
Something that wasn’t always that easy when he was away to one side at right-back.
“I think that might be one of the reasons that I was put there in the first place,” admitted Martin, talking to the Press at Colney yesterday.
“Because I like to talk to people and from the centre of the pitch it’s a bit easier – at right-back you can only talk to the few people around you. In the centre of the pitch, you get to see everything,” added the former Posh skipper, who has found Kyle Naughton occupying his space at right-back.
But with Zak Whitbread, David Ayala and Elliott Ward all injured and youngster Ritchie de Laet rested, so he has answered the manager’s call with huge aplomb.
He clearly has a bright, footballing brain and with a confident voice attached, can nip potential problems in the bud early.
“If you’re talking to people around you, then it makes everybody’s job easier – and it’s something that I like doing during the game.
“And I think talking can definitely help cut out mistakes,” he said, paying equal tribute to the solid two in front of him in the shape of David Fox and Bradley Johnson. With the pace of Leon Barnett alongside him, the Canaries have a well-drilled ‘unit’ at the heart of their side.
“I think we’ve been helping each other out as a four, but the back four have been great and I think that we’ve been unlucky not to keep a couple of clean sheets in the last couple of games with the penalty and the late goal the other night.
“So that’s been disappointing in that we thought we deserved at least one clean sheet, but I think the communication has got better as the season has gone on – and it’s something that Ian Culverhouse has been on about.
“That we need to talk more as a team. We’re not that experienced; we’re quite a young team but I think we’re getting there now.”
He also has the full-back’s ability to burst forward into space as and when opportunity knocks; it was his movement forward with the ball from centre-half that had Sunderland right on the back foot for Steve Morison’s decisive second goal on Monday night. “If a space opens up, then I’m going into it,” he vowed.
Whether the newly-organised Canaries have the ability to prise a clean sheet out of Wayne Rooney and Co is, of course, a wholly different matter. It would be a remarkable achievement to return to Norfolk with at least a point.
Martin is under few illusions as to the task that lies in store. Particularly given that Rooney is due to return after shrugging off his recent hamstring troubles.
“It’s a challenge that we’re looking forward to. And as a professional footballer you never go anywhere thinking you’re beaten before the game – especially with this manager in charge,” said Martin, who had Lambert first for a manager at Wycombe Wanderers and now again at Carrow Road.
The respect and faith in either party is all too evident.
“So we’re confident that we can go up there and cause them a few problems and see what happens,” added Martin, doing his very best to keep the Wards and the Whitbreads waiting for a return to first team duty.
First off, however, it is keeping the Premiership champions at bay for 90 minutes.
“They’re only human. It’s 11 versus 11. And it’s up to us to put our best performance in on the day because that’s the only way we’re going to get something out of them – if we’re on top of our game like we have been in the last couple of games.
“If they’re not at the races and we are… we’ve got a hell of a chance.”
As for his new role, Russell is having a ball.
“It’s been great – I’ve really enjoyed it. Obviously it’s in a position that’s a bit new to me, but it’s gone great. Two wins back-to-back in this league is tough, so to get two wins is massive.”