Tomorrow night’s clash with England provides the perfect opportunity for the friends Russell Martin grew up with in Sussex to watch him play.
But it won’t be the first time they have caught up with him since the match with England at Wembley last year. The Norwich City defender reports that they have already been following his progress in recent months because, according to them, watching Scotland is more enjoyable these days than watching England.
“To be honest, I have had so many texts from friends and even fellow players who say they genuinely enjoy watching Scotland more than England at the minute,” said Martin as he prepares for tomorrow night’s meeting at Celtic Park.
Scotland produced further evidence that they are a team worth seeing against Republic of Ireland on Friday night courtesy of a masterful winning goal from Shaun Maloney. Martin has proof that the renaissance under Gordon Strachan is winning the approval of those south of the Border, who are tuning in not only to see the defender in action. They are also attracted by the prospect of exciting football.
“That is true,” Martin said. “A lot of my friends have said that. They all watch our games, if I’m involved, and they really like how we play.
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“I’ve had loads of compliments about our team. And we are enjoying that too. That shows you how far this team has come. I’m not sure if they will still support England on Tuesday. It is really enjoyable to play in and we really work hard to be a good team,” he added.
Martin has consolidated his place in the Scotland back four since making his competitive debut in the 1-0 win over Croatia in Zagreb in June 2013, a result credited with starting the current good run under Strachan.
Although he relished the experience of playing in the fixture, it is the 3-2 loss to England two months later that irks him most, alongside the recent 2-1 defeat to Germany.
“That is probably the one result – along with Germany – than rankles most with myself, but probably the rest of the lads and the manager,” he said. “We definitely should have got a result at Wembley. Our performance deserved something.”
He admits that Scotland did not react quickly enough to Rickie Lambert’s introduction as substitute. The then Southampton striker scored the winner with his first touch in international football after coming on in the 70th minute, after powerfully heading in from a corner.
“We were not organised enough,” said Martin. “But we are a different team now. We are a long way down the line from then, further in the manager’s tenure, and a different team. They will come up here and they will know they are in a tough game.” Having grown up in Brighton, Martin, who qualifies for Scotland because of his Scottish father, was asked whether he can recall past England v Scotland fixtures, other than the one he has played in. “I remember Euro 96 and stuff like that and then the [Euro 2000] qualifier when [Don] Hutchison scored,” he said.
It is England who perhaps have more reason to look forward to tomorrow night after some underwhelming qualifying games, where they have won four games out of four. Only Switzerland have offered them a truly worthwhile test. “On paper they don’t have the toughest group in the world and it’s a game they are probably looking forward to,” agreed Martin. “Some of the boys down the road will feel like that. We want to finish the job off [after beating Ireland] and take us into the New Year in a good way, with Scotland in a great position to qualify in our group can give the fans something against England,” he added.
“I’ve played against all the England guys, pretty much. They have good players. Wayne Rooney is a top player and has just won his 100th cap. I did OK against him at Wembley so, hopefully, it will be the same on Tuesday.
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