‘He’s been on the phone to me constantly’ – Canaries legend Martin appointed player-coach at Walsall

Russell Martin is being touted with a return to the game at Walsall Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus I

Russell Martin is being touted with a return to the game at Walsall Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Former Norwich City stalwart Russell Martin has been confirmed as a player-coach at League One side Walsall on a deal until the end of the season.

Martin left Carrow Road in the closing stages of the summer transfer window after cancelling his contract in a bid for regular first team football and has now linked up with the Saddlers.

He was on trial at Championship club West Brom shortly after his departure from the Canaries but the 32-year-old defender has decided to reunite with Walsall chief Dean Keates, who he played alongside at Peterborough United previously.

'I'm very excited to be here,' said Martin, who will wear shirt number 34. 'It's been rumbling on for a while. I felt this was the perfect opportunity for me to come into a club that is doing really well, with a manager I know and trust.

'The fact he wants me to get involved in the coaching side as well was a big draw for me. He's been on the phone to me constantly over the last few weeks and I'm happy to finally get it sorted.

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'I'm hoping to add some value on and off the pitch, predominantly as a player. If I can help them off the pitch, which I hope I will with my experience in the game, I believe it will improve us as individuals and as a team.'

Walsall currently sit seventh in League One and Martin has made no secret of his coaching ambitions, when he eventually retires, after a career which saw him lead Norwich back to the Premier League in 2015 and earn 29 caps for Scotland.

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Keates, speaking to the Saddlers' website, added: 'It's a massive coup for us. He's someone I know from being in the changing room and playing with him for three years down at Peterborough.

'We've remained in touch ever since and it was always a case of just waiting and waiting. It's been a drawn-out process but eventually we've got to where we want to be.

'He'll bring leadership. He captained a club from League One up into the Premier League and worked his way up to become an established international.

'To add that experience to the young group we've got is massive. He'll help with the back four and be an example to the younger lads.'

Martin's Norwich spell ended on a sour note after falling out of favour under head coach Daniel Farke over the past 12 months but he made over 300 appearances across nine years with the club, which included three promotions, leaving him 22nd in the club's all-time appearances list.

'I've got no regrets at all,' he said, speaking at the time of his departure. 'I think I've given everything I possibly can for the football club over a long period of time, on and off the pitch.

'Of course I wanted to be playing and it hurt me not to. I've stayed as professional as I possibly could be in the last year and I pride myself on being like that.

'It's not my decision to pick the team and who the manager wants to be part of the club going forward, so that's what it is.

'It was one of the best periods of my life and best parts of my career, and that will always be the same. So I've got no animosity or bitterness for anyone and I've got no regrets on my part.'

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