For me, he’s player of the season.
People may go for the goals or guile of Holt and Hoolahan, but Martin is my man. The man who played every minute of every game.
That’s 4140 mins.
Plus the additional 180 mins of injury time.
He joined us midway through last season and went straight into the team, and Peterborough, his previous club wished him well – he’d led them to promotion from league 1 but the Championship was a step too far in their view. He was barely a benchwarmer.
How wrong they were.
After a slow start last year, he hit the ground at top speed this season. The diamond formation that Lambert has made such a success this year is hugely dependent on the ability of the full backs, covering the length of the pitch from each flank, and Martin has been brilliant doing this. Defensively he’s kept every player quiet, even managing to keep Bellamy so far in his pocket that he could spend the entire 2nd period in the Cardiff half in January, while Nugent who destroyed us at home when playing from the right was kept silent at Fratton Park on the left. The only time he’s looked shaky was up against Scott Sinclair when Swansea visited us, and there won’t be many fullbacks who haven’t had unpleasant flashbacks to the pacey Jack.
Offensively he has really made the difference for the team, bombing forward, always being the option for midfield to spray the ball out wide, always being on the front foot and not being afraid to go deep into the opponents half (I’m looking at YOU Jon Otsemobor). From that position he’s scored an impressive 5 goals as well as several assists.
Russell has had several fine moments this season, in fact the whole yeah has been spectacular for him, culminating in coming 2nd in the Player of the Year vote. Several moments come to mind when looking at his season; playing the Ullathorne sweeper position, proving his versatility and comfort on the ball – ok he did give the ball away really badly once, but for the rest of it he was fine (the formation didn’t last too long though, still it’s a SWEEPER system – only the best get to play in that position); his last minute equalizer against Cardiff at home, a massive result and a massive point for us; the last 10 mins in the recent game against Derby, when, even as a Norwich fan, I thought we weren’t going to get a result we so desperately needed, but the Norfolk Cafu went on several amazing runs with the ball, carrying the team forward to press for the winner, and his deflected shot resulted in Simeon getting the winner; his fourth against our friends down the road, one minute he’s in the box defending a corner, next he’s up the other end receiving the ball from Wes and burying it.
And of course, dancing in his pants at Fratton park.
Next season? I fully expect him to be winning praise from pundits and other managers alike. To keep him on his toes, it’s essential we buy someone to challenge for his position as we’ve got by with having Korey Smith as cover if needed this year, that won’t be good enough next season.
I look forward to seeing him up against the very best left sided players in the Premier League next season, and am certain he’ll not let anyone down.
by Michael Smith