Chris Lakey: End of an era as Mr Loyalty, Russell Martin, leaves the building
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
Russell Martin's nine-year stay at Norwich City has come to an end – CHRIS LAKEY looks at the player whose career was the definition of loyalty to the cause
The final link with the Paul Lambert era finally left the building on Thursday when Russell Martin and Norwich City parted company after almost nine years.
Martin's arrival on loan a few weeks into Lambert's tenure in 2009 soon became permanent and the adventure of a lifetime began.
Lambert had put great store in 'young and hungry' players and Martin, 23 at the time, fitted the bill. Having captained Peterborough United to the Championship he had been sidelined. Enter Lambert, with the perfect job. The rest is history.
Martin was a key figure as City won consecutive promotions to make it to the Premier League.
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On the way he became a Scotland international, scored goal number five in a 5-1 win at Ipswich Town. Second in the player of the season voting to Grant Holt, the Norfolk Cafu was a legend in many fans' eyes. It wouldn't always be the way.
In August 2013 Martin was named club captain: a role that was to bring him pride and, no doubt, some anguish. As the regular spokesperson to face the media, Martin was often tasked with explaining away the good, the bad and the ugly performances. Some fans need someone to shout at when things aren't going right – and Martin proved to be that person.
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It was unfair treatment of a loyal player who, let's face it, didn't pick himself 309 times. And if you had the privilege of meeting the man in person, it just highlighted the contradictions in our beautiful game: score a goal and you are a hero. Make a mistake, and you are the target for the insatiable appetite of social media's shabbiest fans.
In the end, the goodwill of the years of service began to fade and it was clear Martin's future was in doubt: he was loaned out to Glasgow Rangers in January 2018... his City career was over.
That it has ended the way it did is reflective of the man: he could have sat on his backside banking a healthy cheque each week, but wants to play football.
This is the man who made an overnight dash back from Merseyside to Norwich to be at the birth of his son, rushed back to Liverpool - and scored City's equaliser at Liverpool.
This is the man who was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis shortly after joining City and became a sporting ambassador for Crohn's and Colitis UK.
This is the man who set up the Russell Martin Foundation for youngsters in his home town of Brighton.
This is a man who served City so well and should be remembered for that, and nothing less.
Majority shareholder Delia Smith is one of the few who will remember Martin's arrival.
'We have wonderful memories from Russell's time here because he was a great captain, player and a lovely man,' she said. ''He's an all-round lovely person and he's very talented. He will be a manager one day because he's just the right person to be a manager.
'We want to wish him all the best and we are very sad that he's not going to be here anymore.'
That Martin has chosen to leave the club and, perhaps, waive an awful lot of guaranteed salary in the process, is another mark of the man.
Sporting Director Stuart Webber said: 'We've been in discussion constantly over the summer and we felt this was best for all parties and especially in this case, for Russell.
'Once the window closes, he's unable to then go out on loan to anyone so it was done to free him up to go and sign for someone else.
'For what he's done for this club, it's only right we did that for him. Russell will be sorely missed by staff and players and supporters. He's been an unbelievable ambassador for what the club is all about.'
Too right he has.
Russell Martin, at 32 years of age, has plenty to offer the game of football. How long his playing career can go on for is debatable, but the maturity he has shown over the years will stand him in good stead. He went on tour to Germany in the summer knowing he would be playing and mentoring the young lads, not working alongside the first team.
He turned up at Championship matches as a Norwich fan this season.
And he will turn up again, perhaps as a player, perhaps one day as a manager. And he should be accorded the gratitude he deserves.