City centre-half Russell Martin revealed two, big lessons learned at Colney this morning – one, make a mistake and you get punished; two, that he may yet have a bright, international future as a central defender.
The 25-year-old has been a revelation since switching inside to centre-half in the midst of City’s early season injury woes.
And whilst the Canaries might not have a Premiership clean sheet to their name, the fact remains that they enter this weekend’s round of top flight action in a healthy-looking 11th spot; they could yet be back in the top half of the table should they repeat last season’s feat of beating Queen’s Park Rangers at home.
Hands up now which Canary fan wouldn’t take a 2-1 win? Martin certainly would as he prepared for a more ‘normal’ Premier League clash – one, in short, that doesn’t feature a striker in the form of his life.
“That’s the thing that we’ve found this year,” he said. “That at this level you get punished a lot more. I think seven or eight times out of ten in the Championship, you get away with it.
“In this league you don’t – you’re playing against top quality players. Or someone who is probably in the best form of his life at this minute; someone who is probably one of the best players in the world at this minute in Van Persie.”
Arsenal’s Dutch Master – fresh from his two-goal haul against the Canaries including a second strike that featured a rare and fatal lapse of judgement from the Canary star – repeated the feat on the Champions League stage in mid-week. ‘Move on,’ was the Martin verdict.
“We’ve looked at it; you can’t dwell on it – you need to move on,” he said. “Unfortunately it happened – and we need to learn from it.”
What City fans learned from the first-half, of course, was that the one-time Posh skipper has an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time, 99 per cent of the time. His clearance off the line from Theo Walcott was extraordinary.
That highlight he doesn’t mind watching again and again – that bit he enjoyed. “I just threw myself at it, to be fair,” said Martin, with Walcott’s strike bound for a curling finish inside that far upright. Until Martin somehow shanked the ball up and away.
“As I hit the deck, I thought it had still gone in but somehow it’s just gone over. And I enjoyed watching it back – especially after the mistake. But it was good – and I don’t think I’ll produce many more of them.”
This week and the Canaries have, it appears, been getting ‘back down to basics’ in training with the emphasis on helping each other out as a unit; that the lessons from facing first Gabby Agbonlahor and then Walcott was that neither Kyle Naughton nor Marc Tierney are going to be able to keep such people under wraps alone.
“Against pace like that you can’t be left one-on-one on too many occasions – because with pace like that you’re going to get hurt. We have to try and help each other out,” said Martin. “You’ve got to cover and get round for each other – and that’s what we’re there for. We’re all team-mates.
“If you sort your own game out first and then can go and give your mate a helping hand, it all helps.”
He was also at pains to salute the City faithful. They, he said, make the world of difference – both team-wise and individually.
“Even when we went behind last week they got right behind us and when I made the mistake, they got behind me personally – and it makes a massive difference.
“I think the fans know how much they give us, but our home form is going to be vital – especially against the teams that are going to be around us.”
After Rangers and someone else then hoves into view; a team more in the Van Persie mould than the Joey Barton.
“We know that tomorrow would be a nice time to get some points because we know that we’ve got another tough game next week going away to Manchester City,” said Martin. “So we’d be happy to collect more points. We’re happy with the points we’ve collected so far – but that’s all it is. It is a good start. We know that.
“We need to build on that and the next stage of the season starts tomorrow.”
His form – Van Persie slip aside – hasn’t gone unnoticed. But for an untimely whack in training, he would have teamed up with the Scotland squad after the Villa game.
“I was gutted to be honest,” he said. “I hurt myself in training on the Friday just blocking a shot. I managed to get through the Villa game but after the game I was just in too much pain really.
“But I got called up as a centre-half; I did speak to them about that. So that’s somewhere where I can hopefully now push myself and keep myself in that squad.”