Russell Martin's Captain Blog, with Fosters SolicitorsRussell Martin’s Captain’s Blog is brought to you by Norwich City’s legal partner, Fosters Solicitors
‘Just make sure you beat them, it’s the only one that matters. Win that and we will be happy.’
I’ve heard this comment or ones very similar to it a lot over the last few days and weeks, and every one of them is obviously referring to the derby game against Ipswich on Sunday.
I get the sentiment and understand the importance of the game to the fans of both clubs. It’s big but it isn’t the only game that matters. Whatever the outcome on Sunday, there are another 12 games after this which will be hugely important and will determine what league we will be playing in next season.
The size and intensity of the rivalry surprised me when I played in my first derby match around five years ago and I think it was the same for a few of the lads playing in their first one earlier on in the season.
I’ve got some great memories from these matches. My goal at Portman Road is the highlight for me on a night where we put in one of our best performances of that promotion winning season in 2010-11.
My brothers were there and couldn't believe the noise and atmosphere generated in the away end. It ranks up there for them as one of their best games and they've been to a lot of games, following me up and down the country.
Holty’s hat trick in the same season at our place was another special day and will live in the memories of a lot of fans because of some of the outrageous moustaches on display in support of Movember that year. I tried to attain a handlebar ‘tache and came up short!
Leading the team out at Carrow Road for one of these games will be special and if picked it will be another great memory for me to have from these games and this club.
Everything steps up a gear or two around the club in preparation for the game.
The players start getting inundated with ticket requests from various people and some without any attachment to either club, they just want to experience the atmosphere at Carrow Road, where there will be a full house and the place will be rocking.
The press pack seen at the training ground swells in size and numbers increase to the media attention we received in the Premier League, plus a few. This is also because of where we are both placed in the league and means this could be the most significant and most important derby game for a long time.
It’s key as a group of players that we are aware of how important it is to people and how much it means in and around the city, but we must play the game and not the occasion.
It will mean every bit as much to us as we want to win and keep this momentum going. We will prepare no differently. This is our process and it is one that has brought us a lot of success recently.
We are extremely pleased with the way we are playing and the character we have shown in the last five or six games, and are aware that for us to achieve promotion it must remain this way and we must keep strengthening and improving game by game, starting Sunday.
We have built up some momentum and have shown how important a squad is, not just the eleven who start the match. People coming off the bench have been making a real impact and the changes in formations and line-ups show how much flexibility we have within the group.
Every game at this stage of the season is huge and Tuesday at Blackburn signified how important winning games is now.
The goal of promotion is getting closer and closer and pressure increases on teams who maybe haven’t been in this position before. Every team in the top seven bar Bournemouth won and although we were one-nil down, to draw the game would have been disappointing. The fact we did bounce back in the second half showed the mental toughness and desire this group of players has.
We put everything in to making sure we won and the travelling support was immense, especially considering the distance, weather and it being a Tuesday night. In spite of everywhere seeming to be a million miles from Norfolk, we must have the best away following in the country.
‘Take it one game at a time’ is one of the oldest adages in football and for good reason. No one knows what is going to happen tomorrow let alone the next few weeks. That is what keeps it interesting and entertaining for so many people.
This has been and will be our approach under the manager until the end of the season. The game in hand is the most important of the season and this one just happens to be Ipswich at home.
Roll on Sunday. The lads are looking forward to it as I’m sure you all are. Enjoy the game.
I must end with an apology! I was at a swimming pool recently where I know the club doctor also attends and I often see him there at the same time. I saw a pair of trainers exactly the same as his that he wears at the club, so I presumed he was also there that day.
Very child-like, I went ahead and tied his shoelaces together as tight as I could, time and time again, until it formed one big shoe. (My justification for this is I have had this done to my trainers many times in his domain in the medical room at the training ground whilst receiving treatment, so this was some payback).
Feeling quite happy with myself, I went in to training the next day delighted with my handiwork and waiting for the Doc to reproach me about the incident. He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about, though, and was working the day of the lace tying. His shoes remained at the training ground the whole time!
So to that person who spent ten minutes sorting their laces out, I apologise!
WIN Executive Box tickets for Norwich City v Derby County, with Fosters Solicitors.
To be in with a chance of winning a pair of tickets in the Fosters Executive Box as their guests for the fixture on March 14 2015, simply enter their free competition - CLICK HERE.