Norwich defender Russell Martin is man for all seasons

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Mark Runnacles/Getty ImagesRussell Martin: The natural inheritor of Grant Holt's captain's armband.

Russell Martin deserves everything football is now bestowing on the Norwich City and Scotland international.

The defender deemed not good enough to make it with hometown club Brighton in his youth was a pivotal actor in the Scot's memorable World Cup qualifying win over Croatia. Gordon Strachan deployed Martin in a less accustomed centre-back role after a raft of injuries and withdrawals threatened to expose the whipping boys of the group against a side currently ranked fourth in the world and odds on to progress to the World Cup finals in Brazil in 12 months time.

Martin and Grant Hanley typified Scotland's defiance in a 1-0 away win earned by fellow Norwich team-mate Robert Snodgrass' first half opener in Zagreb. Martin managed to subdue an illustrious opponent in Bayern Munich's Champions League-scoring striker Mario Mandzukic during a dominant shift that will have come as no surprise to regular City watchers.

The defender's career path to date has been defined by his ability to prove the doubters' wrong, to fight against the odds, to defy fresh adversity. The 27-year-old was forced into non-league circles to begin an ascent that took him via Wycombe to Peterborough. Martin captained Posh to the League One title and then found himself sidelined within months of that success at London Road. Darren Ferguson appeared less convinced of Martin's credentials to cut it in the Championship than Paul Lambert, who turned an initial Canaries' loan into a permanent move that has reaped major benefits for both parties.

Martin has been a consistent performer at full-back during the club's meteoric rise from the depths of League One and then when injuries bit to a key area of the backline he excelled at centre-back for a prolonged spell in City's first successful tilt at Premier League survival in 2011/12.

Chris Hughton opted to entice Scottish international Steven Whittaker to Carrow Road last summer to provide direct competition, but persistent injuries and Martin's response ensured he remains a key component of City's starting line up under the new manager. Now after biding his time in the Scotland international set up, Martin's Croatian display underlined he can also operate at a rarefied level for his country.

The man from the south coast may owe his Scottish elevation to his father's blood line, but the Tartan Army should be left in no doubt about his commitment to the cause after delaying his pending wedding to answer Strachan's desperate SOS.

The City defender is not only a talented footballer, he possesses an enviable strength of character that has propelled this likeable operator from non-league to the biggest stages. Martin's career is a triumph for perseverance. When the bar is raised another notch or two he proceeds to clear it with a remarkable degree of comfort. Martin's reliability in the blue of Scotland is likely to be utilised again when Strachan's squad head to England for a long-awaited renewal of their bitter rivalry in a prestige August friendly at Wembley. Final affirmation, if any were needed, that Norwich's defender can hold his own in any company.

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