Michael Bailey: Why Russell Martin has no regrets over his Norwich City exit
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Norwich City correspondent Michael Bailey speaks to Russell Martin about his successes at City, Millwall and what fans can expect this season
There’s every chance this is going to feel a little after the Lord Mayor’s show – given there have been plenty of superbly written and keenly pointed tribute pieces in the direction of Russell Martin, since his long association with Norwich City was officially ended on the closure of this year’s summer transfer window.
In many cases, there is nothing to add. Three promotions, captaining play-off success at Wembley in the most un-Norwich manner imaginable and more Premier League appearances for the club than anyone else – each says everything about Martin’s achievements on the pitch.
Likewise the warm outpouring of gratitude and numerous times Martin did more than simply act like a footballer at the club, are the reasons any supporter will hold him in such high esteem.
But after managing to make contact with Martin this week – having just got lost trying to find his hotel in the Midlands between training sessions with West Bromwich Albion no less – it was the trickier bits that I felt needed asking.
The fact such a wonderful servant of the club should find themselves cast aside so abruptly – and his final outing should be that defeat at Millwall, little more than 12 months ago.
“I’ve got no regrets at all,” said Martin. “I think I’ve given everything I possibly can for the football club over a long period of time, on and off the pitch.
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“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.
“Millwall was a bad day – a bad day for everyone and it really hurt me getting booed off.
“It was really difficult to take at the time, especially when you’re going to have good games and bad games, it was a completely new team, quite a young and experienced one with lots of new players. I guess I was the target that day. It would be different people on different days, and obviously Marcel (Franke) didn’t play much after that either.
“I didn’t envisage it being the end of my Norwich career there and then and I’d always back myself to try to turn it round, work hard and see what came of things – but it wasn’t to be.
“It’s not easy to take and it hurt me because I love that football club and I love being there. I’d have loved for it to have ended in a much more positive and nice way on the pitch – but it was a long time ago now, you have to get over that and move on. I have.
“It’s a shame that was my last game for Norwich City but at the same time, I won’t remember that in years to come. I’ll remember all the positives and the good times – because that’s far outweighed the negative stuff.”
Indeed it’s a sad indictment that vitriol and opinion following any football club rarely comes with a wider appreciation for any given situation. And that’s without going into the fact Martin was not singularly at fault for any of the goals scored at The Den, at the end of August 2017.
With that, the last sticking points for discussion were done as the final Paul Lambert pawn left the building – at least until Martin finally decides who will host his follow-up album.
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Not that it will stop him keeping an eye on what happens to those he’s left behind – both senior professionals and the Under-23s he helped alongside boss Matt Gill in recent months.
“I’ll be following the club now regardless and I don’t see why they should finish lower than last season, that’s for sure,” Martin added.
“The squad is really good, it’s been strengthened in the summer and got a few more people that know the league and what it takes.
“When you looked at the fixtures when they first came out, I don’t think anyone could’ve expected any different. It’s a really tough first 10 fixtures.
“But I genuinely feel this squad should definitely be progressing from last season and trying to push into the top half, maybe the edge of the play-off places. It’s progress – they just want to give it a right go and see what comes of it.
“With Stuart (Webber) there now, he’s desperate to give academy players their chance in the first team. He knows fans want to see it and there’s nothing better than a local lad coming through, showing what he’s about and doing well for the club.
“In that group now Matt Gill, Jay Estoe-Smith and the players were brilliant with me. I’d like to think I helped them a little bit too. There’s a real good feel about that group and they know team success will lead them to do better as individuals.
“There are some really good players in there and I’m confident you’ll see a good few of them coming through in the next couple of years.”
Now like the rest of us, Martin will watch and hope his best wishes for his club come true.
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