Martin was a canny piece of business
Speaking to Ken Brown prior to Monday’s latest Premier League success for Norwich City against Sunderland set me thinking.
Brown was generous with his time and his anecdotes relating to the Black Cats’ boss and one of his former City charges Steve Bruce.
The decorated Manchester United centre back achieved plenty during his brief but ultimately successful stint in Norfolk during the mid-1980s – relegation from the top flight apart, of course.
A statistic Brown’s side remedied the following season when they bounced back into the old First Division as champions and underlined their commitment to stay there with a top five finish the following campaign.
What struck me most vividly listening to Brown recall the days of Bruce and Dave Watson was Bruce’s saleable value. Purchased for a tribunal-set fee around the �135,000 mark from lowly Gillingham, Norwich cashed in to the tune of �800,000 and small change when Sir Alex Ferguson came calling to whisk the Geordie off to Old Trafford.
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In any walk of business life, that would go down as a healthy transaction. Buy low, sell high after an impressive stint in the green and yellow.
Football finance has changed out of all recognition. When Fernando Torres leaves Liverpool to Chelsea for the combined GDP of one of our smaller Eastern European trading partners you get the message loud and clear.
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But all things are relative. Even in the grotesquely money-orientated world of modern football there is value to be had. Gems to be mined, polished and sold on.
Arsene Wenger purchased Nicolas Anelka from Paris Saint-Germain as a raw 17-year-old recruit for �500,000. Two summers later and the Frenchman had matured into a key member of Arsenal’s Premier League and FA Cup double-winning side. Real Madrid reached for the phone before eventually depositing �22.3m into the coffers of the north London giants.
Another handsome mark up. Yet, put the profit and loss account to one side, and look at the impact an Anelka or a Bruce for that matter had for relatively modest outlays.
Then apply that logic to Paul Lambert’s current squad. None purchased for any sort of numbers that would have the money men at the established Premier League clubs shifting uneasily in their leather upholstered seats.
The era of the ‘undisclosed fee’ blights any attempt to definitively argue with compelling financial accuracy.
But City’s fiscal position has been well documented by the club’s hierarchy during their fall and subsequent rise over recent years. Norwich’s cloth has been cut accordingly.
Given that, one man in Paul Lambert’s squad stands out above all others. Russell Martin. The ‘versatile’ – yes I think ‘versatile’ just about covers it at present after another faultless display at centre back – defender has repaid whatever ‘undisclosed’ fee City parted with to Peterborough to seal a permanent move in January 2010.
Right in the middle of Norwich’s League One campaign, lest we forget, when City were indeed operating within restrictively tight margins. And signing a player who Peterborough clearly felt was surplus to requirements in their first team plans. More fool them.
Martin not only flourished at that level, but repeated the trick in the Championship. Played every single minute of City’s rollercoaster promotion push – you can’t get much more value than that, I would suggest. Defensive soundness allied to the attacking adventure that brought vital assists and goals. The QPR match-winner at home. The stoppage time leveller against Cardiff. The less vital but no less sweet late strike in the derby humbling at Ipswich.
A season of success that earned him an international call up to the Scotland squad. But Martin’s patience this campaign marks him out again. Rubber-stamping not only the model professional but the man after being relegated to a watching brief following the opening day draw at Wigan as Kyle Naughton slotted seamlessly into his old position
We’re not privy to what goes on behind closed Colney doors, but I think anyone coming into contact with Martin in the past can accurately predict the defender is not one for showdowns. Martin is old school.
He has had to bide his time. Now he is getting his rewards. So is Norwich.