RUSSELL Martin was an interested observer this week while England were working themselves into a lather over the international football eligibility issue.
Now safely installed as a Scotland regular, the Brighton-born defender is very much in possession of a dark blue jersey.
There are no blurred lines for Martin. It is not even something as flimsy as the grandparent rule that qualifies him to play for Scotland, which he has now done on eight occasions having established himself as a first-choice centre-back under Gordon Strachan. Rather, he qualifies for the fairly straightforward reason that his father was born in Irvine, although some mild panic was induced as they made a frantic search for the birth certificate in time for him to make his debut against Wales in 2011.
It is rather more complicated in the case of Adnan Januzaj, the Belgium-born Manchester United starlet who has sparked such a tug of war between nations. He is reportedly eligible to play for as many as six countries, and even England are hopeful of appropriating him at some point in the future, on account of a Fifa approved residency rule that the home Football Associations were all supposedly meant to have agreed not to invoke. Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere then added fuel to the fire by apparently suggesting only those born in the country should be able to represent the shirt, although he later made it clear he was not meaning to be quite as severe.
“I don’t make the rules up,” said Martin, when asked about the row yesterday. “I think if the rules allow you to be eligible and you get called up then you have a decision to make.
“And if both parties are happy that they have chosen a player and they want to play then why not?”
Martin described international football as “the pinnacle” as he looked ahead to making his latest appearance for Scotland against Croatia on Tuesday night. The Norwich City player made his claim for a regular berth against the same opponents in June in the 1-0 win in Zagreb.
“Luckily I’m eligible to play for Scotland through my dad and it was a very proud moment the first time I did play,” he added. “Every time I get called up now is a source of pride for me. It shows how far I’ve come in my career in a relatively short space of time. Playing international football should be the pinnacle regardless if it’s a friendly or a qualifier. The ultimate aim is to play in a major tournament and if that happens it will be another step up from where we are. It’s a feeling of immense pride every time I get to play in front of the Hampden crowd.
“All my family reacted the same when I was called up. They were really pleased and proud of me. I think it may have surprised them a bit but as soon as the call came and I rang them they were over the moon. It was the next step in my football career. We’d just got to the Premiership at that time, and you always want to prove yourself in that step up.”
Martin, who postponed his own wedding to play against Croatia, backed Kris Commons to return to the Scotland fold after the Celtic midfielder suggested he might be open to ending his self-imposed exile from international football.
“Commons is a good player and you always want good players around you,” he said. “He’s made the decision for reasons he will know, to see a bit more of his family. I understand it’s hard when you are coming away and not playing, I’ve been there myself. For me it’s a short career and I want to look back on my career and look back on as many caps as I can possibly get.
“I have one kid myself and it’s hard at times when you are coming away and not playing and spending time away, especially when the lads back at your club get a few days off and time away and get a good break. If he [Commons] does decide to come back he’ll be an asset to us because he’s a good player. If he returns he will be welcomed back with open arms by the lads.”