Chris Martin has been left under no illusions about the present his dad Gerry wants most of all for his 60th birthday this Saturday.
“A last-minute winner wouldn’t be bad, he has actually mentioned that,” grins the striker whose late intervention against Slovenia three months ago resuscitated Scotland’s flagging hopes of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup Finals.
For the Suffolk-born Derby County man, repeating the feat against England at Hampden this weekend would not only please his Glaswegian father. It would utterly transform his status in the eyes of the Tartan Army, a section of whom embarrassed themselves by jeering him onto the pitch as a substitute a few minutes before he grabbed that crucial goal against Slovenia.
The 28-year-old turns out to be as forgiving as he is instantly likeable when he reflects on that experience, possessing a disposition which ensures he will approach Saturday evening with only positive thoughts.
“With my dad turning 60 on the day, I’ll be buzzing if can play any kind of part against England and recreate what happened last time at Hampden.
“It wasn’t about me, though, it was about the result for the country. Obviously my dad was delighted, as were the rest of my family. There were about 15 of them there last time and there will be a fair few this time as well.
“My dad moved to England when he was maybe 20 or 21 but he’s from Glasgow and he’s the reason I am here playing for Scotland. He’s been a big part in the Scottish bandwagon and the family are all up here. Hopefully, I can score the winner for them.
“My dad was always strong on our Scottish heritage, so I never had the choice when I was growing up. You don’t mess with your dad.We’ve never been allowed to forget where we’re from. Sometimes the people who live away from home are the most passionate, 100 per cent.
“I am still on a high from the Slovenia experience now. The memories are still fresh. It was pretty special as it got us back on track in the qualifying group. As much as we tried to play it down at the time, it was a vital win for us. I was really happy with it and, hopefully, we can take the confidence from that game into Saturday. I’ve not had too many Scotland fans saying sorry (for booing) but they don’t need to apologise to me. They can voice their opinion all they like. Hopefully, I can change their minds if they don’t have a high opinion of me in the first place.
“I am a professional and my job is to get out on the pitch and get the winner. I was lucky enough for that to happen against Slovenia.
“It doesn’t even bear thinking about what it would mean to do it again against England. I just need to keep my head down and, hopefully, play a part. Obviously, every lad can dream. Everyone will be hoping they are the one who can step up, score the winner or contribute in a big way.
“Obviously, I’d be delighted if it was me, but, first and foremost, getting the three points would be massive and it doesn’t really matter who puts the goal in. Everyone would be delighted. We need the points. It was a big one last time and it got us back into contention for second place. Another win would bring England closer to us and it would be huge for the country.
“It’s been a long time since we beat England at Hampden, so, hopefully, we are a squad that’s able to do that.”
Martin has cherished the continued faith shown in him by Scotland manager Gordon Strachan throughout what was a turbulent season at club level. He spent most of it on loan at Fulham, but was at the centre of controversy over his initial desire to return to parent club Derby sooner than the London outfit wanted.
“It’s been very tumultuous, shall I say,” he said. “It’s probably the strangest season of my career, especially off the field. Hopefully, there is a real positive twist to end an up-and-down season. Football is like that at times. It can be a rollercoaster, but not usually all in the one season.
“Sometimes you need to ride the wave and, hopefully, I can top it off with a real high against England.
“It’s been crazy. I don’t want to go into too much detail but, if I told people what happened, they wouldn’t believe me.
“Some strange things have transpired away from the football pitch. It’s been a bit disappointing on the pitch. I’ve been inconsistent but there have been some contributing factors towards that. It’s gone now and I’m just looking forward to Saturday and hopefully playing my part in a win.
“There were certain things said during the January transfer window that didn’t come from myself. That’s the hardest part, trying to deal with things that I had no attachment to really. I’ve seen a lot in my career and I’d like to think I’m fairly mature. I tried to deal with it the best way I could but that contributed to what happened on the pitch.
“I was in and out of the team and that makes it difficult to make your mark. I’ll put it down to experience and go again next season.
“It’s over now. I’ve secured a new contract at Derby and I’ll be heading back there for pre-season.
“My family weren’t able to join me down in London because the deal as temporary, so I was away for eight or nine months. The kids are obviously delighted I’m back with them and I’m looking to push on for next season.
“I’ve spoken to the new Derby manager Gary Rowett on a couple of occasions and everything has been positive. You never know. I could go back in pre-season and things could change, it can change quickly in football.
“But he’s making all the right noises. There was a period of adjustment and I’m sure there will be changes over the summer, as happens at most clubs. But I’ll be back on June 29 and we’ll go from there.
“Scotland has been great for me all season. The manager has backed me from the start. I’ve been involved in just about every squad so it was nice to repay some of that faith against Slovenia.
“It was a big one for us and everyone was buzzing going back into the changing room. Everyone was congratulating me but it was a good performance from everyone.
“Before I even got on the pitch I felt we should have been two or three up so I think we got our just rewards for our performance on the night.”