Play-off victory is Norwich City’s redemption, says Russell Martin

Russell Martin with the trophy at the end of the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Pic

Russell Martin with the trophy at the end of the Championship play-off final at Wembley Stadium. Picture: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

Living the dream – it's a phrase that gets trotted out a lot. But Russell Martin breathed every moment of it at Wembley, leading Norwich City out before kick-off – and then up the steps in glory at full-time.

For a man who has – like every City player this season – had to ride out his critics, the Championship play-off final was a crowning glory.

And in Martin's case, as captain and stalwart, as someone who now has the Canaries ingrained in his football life force, it was a perfect day. The perfect day.

'It's just emotionally draining – you try to take it all in, of course you do, but it all goes so quickly,' beamed Martin, clutching hold of the play-off trophy like he'll still be attached to it when he leads the Canaries out in the Premier League next season.

'I will go to bed with it,' he jokes – somehow beaming brighter.

'To lead a team out at Wembley, and then lead them up the steps to pick up the trophy… it's the proudest moment of my career and I don't think it'll be topped.

'It feels amazing. To do it the way we've done it is the ultimate. It tops everything we've done at this football club for me, since I've been here.

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'After last year, this is redemption. We've had our naysayers as well, but we've got through all that as a squad, and we've been all together in trying to get back to where we belong. And now we've done that.

'You could see it on the pitch, with all the Norwich City fans there – it's special. The stuff you dream about as a kid, and fortunately I got to lead them up those steps as captain.

'It was emotional, seeing all that yellow and green out there. To lift the trophy at Wembley…it was a cup final and for your whole season to be defined by one game, your whole season to be judged in that situation, is cruel really – especially for Middlesbrough, who have had a brilliant season. I would've hated to be in their situation, and we so easily could've been.

'But the character and guts we showed, the way we approached the game…the start was crucial. We went into thorough detail, and it's testament to the lads how we went about it. We've got big-game players who have been there and done it, that wanted to get us back to the Premier League – and now we are.

'We said before the game we were living the dream. Out of millions of people, we were stepping out at Wembley for a chance at playing in the Premier League. And we were never going to be more prepared than we were today.' And all with the aid of Nathan Redmond's 15th minute goal to make it 2-0 – one of the great Norwich goals.

'I remember running over screaming 'what a goal that is!',' added Martin. 'It really was. We'd spoken about trying to switch play quickly. That was the game plan and it was no coincidence we scored a goal like that. We'd been working on it all week. There's nothing better for a coach or manager – but even for the players, to see that work – especially on an occasion like this.'