Russell Martin has the energy for battle with Norwich City
Defender Russell Martin has reconnected with his energy supply after reverting to his original role as Norwich City right-back – and insists he would be happy to play twice a week all season if required.
Wednesday’s 3-0 Premier League defeat at Sunderland was the first time the Canaries had lost since Martin returned to full-back and Daniel Ayala was brought into the centre of defence alongside Zak Whitbread.
Tricky opponents such as West Bromwich Albion’s Jerome Thomas, Chelsea’s Juan Mata and Sunderland’s James McClean have kept the 26-year-old fully occupied since the halfway mark of the season.
But Martin, hoping to make his 100th appearance for City against Bolton Wanderers at Carrow Road today (3pm), feels he is more like his old self after a hectic spell of matches.
“It’s taken a couple of games to get back in the swing of it but I feel fine now, and I actually feel physically better than I did a week or two ago,” he said.
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“It takes a bit of adjusting, it’s a bit more running on your legs at right-back so it takes a bit of getting used to.
“The games start creeping up on you, and your legs are a little bit heavier than usual. I hadn’t played right-back for a good few months and then when you play two games in quick succession it catches up with you a little bit. But that’s to be expected.”
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Martin had three months playing in the centre of defence, starting with the 2-1 win at Bolton in September.
“I really enjoyed playing centre-half, as I said a few times. I did OK but we’ve got four fit centre-halves now and Ryan Bennett coming in makes five, so I’ve been nudged back out there,” he said. “It’s fine by me, as long as I’m playing I don’t mind. That’s where I’ve played the last few years.”
While manager Paul Lambert has rotated his squad and rested key men, Martin is the only City player not to have missed a match since the trip to the Reebok Stadium, but he has no complaints about that.
He said: “It’s part of my game – energy, being fit and staying fit. If it was up to me I’d play every game of every season I could – cup, league, anything.
“You’ve got to keep up your form, be injury-free and be a bit lucky in that sense. But if it was up to me I’d play Saturday-Tuesday every week of the season if I could. You get a good break in the summer but in this league you get a little more break between games, though the games are relentless and it is a bit tougher physically.
“The big difference is you have to concentrate for the whole time in this league. You switch off for a second and they’re capable of scoring goals, and the second goal on Wednesday shows you that. We lost the ball and in four or five seconds they’ve gone up the other end and scored. Teams possess that quality and you have to be so focused.”
Martin played every second of City’s 46-match Championship campaign and Lambert, who brought him to Carrow Road in November 2009, praised the way he has adapted to Premier League football since promotion.
“His contribution has been mammoth, from where his career came from,” he said. “At Wycombe when he was on trial before my time he used to get the bus from Brighton. I think he has had a lot of doubters in his career and people who thought he wasn’t good enough but you have to give a guy a chance and he has been pretty much an ever-present for me.
“Maybe people thought he wouldn’t play every game but he is another one who has been a huge part of what we have achieved.
“When you give someone an opportunity, they have to go and do it. If they can’t then it is my job to go and get someone in who I think can do it. I think he is a top pro and there is no doubt he looks after himself and tries to do the right things.”