Norwich City defender Martin - Now the real Premier League business starts
Russell Martin yesterday declared the phoney war over. The race for Premier League survival starts now.
Norwich's impressive points haul to date has given Paul Lambert's squad the insurance to absorb results like Sunderland in midweek. But with today's opponents Bolton picking up in recent weeks and the likes of QPR spending big money in the January transfer window, Martin knows it will still take a monumental collective effort to remain above the waterline as the battle to stay in the division becomes increasingly frantic.
'A few teams are starting to pick up results. It's well known that Premier League gets a bit tougher after January when people have made signings, but we know if we play the way we did at Bolton we've got more than enough to pick up three points,' he said. 'They're a good side, there's no doubt about it. They've been an established Premier League side for a long, long time. They've got players who can change games and they made a good signing in midweek with (Marvin) Sordell from Watford, so it will be a tough game.
'We've picked up some good results at home and our home form's been pretty good. It's nice to get back there. It was a long trip in midweek so we look forward to playing there on a Saturday at three o'clock, which we don't seem to have too many of at the minute, but it will be nice to get back there in front of our fans and play at the tempo we know we can play at and put Wednesday to bed.'
Martin insists there is no need for recriminations after a night to forget at the Stadium of Light.
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'I just think it shows if you're not at the races in this league you'll get punished,' he said. 'We're up against a team that's spent millions of pounds and pay a lot bigger wages than us, I think people have to realise that's what we're up against, unfortunately. We've gone up there, they played the pitch better than us, pressed us really well and you have to give credit to them. They're a resurgent team, when you see what Martin O'Neill's done since he's been up there.
'They're similar players but a different team to the team we played at Carrow Road a few months ago. We never quite got started. The second goal killed us, really, coming quite quickly after the first goal. We never quite got back into it, but we never give up in this time and we still went searching and still worked hard. The effort's never in question but unfortunately it wasn't quite our night.'
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Martin hopes to play his part in the riposte from Lambert's men in what would be a landmark occasion for the Scotland international ahead of his 100th Norwich outing.
'If selected, 100 games for a club of this size and stature and what we've done in the last few years is brilliant. It's a good feat and I'll be really happy to reach it,' he said. 'It's gone better than you could ever have imagined. When I signed I didn't envisage being in the Premier League in two years and playing week in, week out. It's gone brilliantly, but you don't get much time to reflect in football. Things move on very quickly in football from game to game, so when you do look back – a lot of us in the dressing room – at how far we've come it's no mean feat. The minute you stop still and think you've done all right it will catch you up.
'You run out of superlatives to describe how it's gone but we'll carry on and hopefully this season will top it all off.'