IF ANYONE has reason to toast Gordon Strachan’s first year as Scotland manager then it is Russell Martin, whose constant desire to make himself available has been rewarded by a series of appearances since making his international breakthrough against Croatia in June.
Although he was not included in the starting line-up against the United States on Friday, the Norwich player shrugged off a back injury and returned to the side for the 1-0 win over Norway on Tuesday.
A feature of Strachan’s new-look Scotland team has been Martin and Grant Hanley’s partnership in the middle of defence. This was broken up over the course of the last few days, as the manager took the opportunity to try out other options.
Gordon Greer’s introduction at centre-half has to be considered a success after consecutive clean sheets – on Friday he partnered Hanley and then in Norway he lined up with Martin, who won his 10th cap. Martin has welcomed the competition in the centre of defence, for so long regarded as one of Scotland’s problem areas.
“I enjoyed playing alongside Gordon in training,” he said. “We mix and match in training and he’s been involved in a few squads so I know his game.
“He did really well with Grant against the USA on Friday and two clean sheets from two starts – well, you can’t ask for much more than that. We also get on really well off the pitch and that helps too. I enjoyed it and I felt we did well together.
“I’ve always wanted to be involved [with the Scotland squad] and when called upon I’ve
always come along,” added
Martin. “I didn’t play as much as I’d have wanted at the start but thankfully under the new regime I’ve been given a chance and hopefully I’ve taken it.
“Hopefully there’s a lot more games to come for me with Scotland. Grant and I have played the last few competitive games and we have had a fairly good record.
“Gordon’s shown what he’s about these last two games and Christophe [Berra] is back in the squad now too and he’s got more caps than both of us so he’s capable at this level.”