Time running out for Norwich City defender Russell Martin
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Russell Martin knows he is in the last chance saloon with Scotland in his bid to make the World Cup finals next summer.
Martin is part of an experienced core in Gordon Strachan’s squad who realise time is running out as they look to close the gap on Group F leaders England ahead of a double header against Lithuania on Friday and Malta next week.
“There’s always pressure because you are playing for your country,” he said. “You are carrying the hopes of a nation who are desperate to get back to a tournament, especially given the success of Wales and Northern Ireland recently. The only pressure we have to focus on is our own one - that internal pressure we have to put on ourselves to try and be in amongst it. The reality for some of the older boys is that this might be our last chance to qualify for a major tournament. It’s not one last battle cry, but the reality of football is that the game moves on really quickly. There are a lot of people in there who will be desperate to get to Russia and will put pressure on themselves. But the outside stuff you have to shut yourself out to that. We are well aware of what people expect and the game against England has shown we are hopefully capable of trying to give them that.”
Martin has been buoyed by the 2-2 draw against England at Hampden last time out, when only Harry Kane’s stoppage time equaliser denied the Scots a famous win.
“I think the England game has recharged everyone on the outside, but we inside the squad never lost that inner belief that we can qualify,” he said. “We knew how difficult the first four or five games would be and what we were up against. I think we were prepared for that performance in June, even if no-one else saw it coming. During the week building up to the game you could see the focus and the energy in the boys. We all knew how big it was for everyone. We are disappointed afterwards not to win it. The dressing room afterwards, which should have been happy and buoyant at getting a result, was flat because we knew we had played so well. If anything we are a bit more hungry now to win this next one and make sure we are still in the mix come the end.”