No divided loyalties for Norwich City defender Russell Martin ahead of Paul Lambert’s return
Russell Martin owes Paul Lambert for his shot at the big time but there are no divided loyalties as Norwich hunt a Capital One Cup quarter-final win tonight over Aston Villa at Carrow Road.
Martin has been part of two promotion-winning squads and a successful survival mission in the Premier League, along with earning a Scotland international call-up, since Lambert rescued him from Peterborough back in 2009.
The popular defender knows better than most his old mentor would like nothing better than to mark his first return to Norfolk by helping wreck the Canaries' bid for a last four League Cup spot.
'I'm sure he'll want his side to put in a performance but to be honest, football moves on so quickly. He'll just want his team to come here and win the game. It's as simple as that,' said Martin. 'We want to win the game, there has not been any chat about the previous manager coming here. The lads haven't spoken about it once, if I'm honest. For us it's about winning the game and getting through.
'I think the majority of Norwich fans appreciate the job he did and I'm sure he'll get a good reception. Everyone is entitled to their opinion but for me and the rest of the players, there is no malice or bitterness towards anyone.
'He's given a lot of us the chance to come and play for this football club, it's a great club, and he gave us a chance to play in the best league in the world; and he's given the fans the chance to watch us play week in, week out in the Premier League.'
Martin is convinced Lambert will eventually work his magic in the Midlands after a testing start to his Villa Park reign.
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'It was always going to be tough, the squad he's been dealt there,' he said. 'They were struggling at the end of last season and he's had to come in and pick them up and make his own signings. He's done similar to what he did here, pluck lads from a lower level who have potential and I think they've picked up in recent weeks.
'He is a really good man manager and I'm sure he'll get them going. Aston Villa is a big job and if anyone can handle it, I'm sure he can. He was great for the football club here and I think the majority of people realise that. He's moved on, that's football. Managers, players, people move on. It was his decision to move on. That's football, we've got a fantastic manager at the club now.'
The 26-year-old defender returned against Swansea at the weekend for the first time since suffering a back injury in Norwich's 1-1 Premier League draw at Villa earlier this season. Martin insists Chris Hughton's squad is acutely aware what is at stake this evening.
'The way we see it we're three games away from Wembley,' he said.
'Every lad wants to play in a cup final, it's what you aspire to, especially when you come into professional football. You set yourself goals. I know one of mine is playing at Wembley, playing in a cup final.
'We might now get that chance. People see us as a small club at the top level, but we've got a good side here and the lads see it as a massive, massive chance to reach a cup final.
'You've got eight or nine lads who are not playing at the minute, champing at the bit to play, and they're players who have played hundreds of games in the Football League and been regulars last season.
'It's tough for them because they're not in the side, but the side that has been playing has been so good. So for them they might get a chance, I don't know. If they do, they'll be desperate to take it, and we're one game away from being in the semi-final – then it's anyone's.'