Upon the announcement of his departure from Norwich City, Club legend Russell Martin sat down with Norwich City TV to look back at some of his favourite memories, as well as previewing an exciting future.
Q: First of all Russ, could you begin by talking us through why yourself and the Club has come to this agreement about terminating your contract?
Firstly, I’d like to say that the way Stuart [Webber] has dealt with the situation and with me for the whole year has been brilliant.
It’s not been easy for anyone, this situation I’ve been in. I’m a football player and I really want to play football. I wish I was just comfortable sitting there and picking up my wages at the end of the month, but it’s not what I’m about.
I’m desperate to play football again. I really appreciate the fact that the Club and I have agreed to do it, basically because it means I’m free to go and play football somewhere and start again. I still feel there’s a few years left in me yet.
There wasn’t a loan option that came about, there was a few early on and I decided to wait and see what came about. As it’s gone on, there’s not been one that was right, and my options open up a little bit if I’m a free agent.
Stuart and my agent have been speaking all the way along, I’ve been speaking to Stuart as well, we’ve been in open dialogue. I think it’s just come to the point where it’s best for everyone.
It’s not been an easy decision at all to end my attachment with this Football Club. Everyone knows how I feel about it, but it’s come about and as I said, I appreciate the way the Club has dealt with it and me. I guess it is time to move on.
Q: What are you overriding emotions right now?
I’ll be honest, my overriding emotion is one of disappointment and sadness really. I’ve been here a long time and the relationships I’ve developed with a lot of people off the pitch mean as much to me as anything else – I’ve made friends for life that I’ll always be in touch with.
That’s the most difficult thing to leave. You come in every day and see the same people – I like to think I’ve helped a lot of those people off the pitch at certain times and, as I said, that’s my overriding feeling at the minute.
I’m sure I’ll look ahead with excitement at my next opportunity but at the moment, I’ll be brutally honest it’s an emotional one for me. It really is.
I’ve been honoured and privileged to play for this Football Club. I’ve loved it. The last year hasn’t been ideal and it hasn’t ended as how I would have wanted it to. But I’ll always care for this Football Club and the people involved with it. For me and my family, it’s been a huge part of my life. It will always be my Football Club now.
Q: Does it make it harder that you’re leaving a community club with an ethos you’ve really bought into and helped enhance?
Even when you look at the things away from the pitch, CSF and what they do for the community and the relationship I have with those people – it’s huge. Walking around the city and you see how much it [the Club] means to everyone, it’s massive. It’s a brilliant football club with brilliant people and that’s the saddest part to be leaving.
I’ll go and play and be a player elsewhere. It’s all nice being a player and a captain here, but the affinity with people and the community and the relationships, that’s the thing I’ll miss most.
Q: What are your first memories of the Club from when the initial contact was made in 2009 and what was it about the Club that made you want to join?
I knew I was leaving Peterborough United, I just didn’t know where I’d be going. I’d spoken to Brighton - obviously my hometown club who I was desperate to go and play for. I got released from there at 16 so I thought that would be it. I’d spoken to the manager at the time with who was Russell Slade and I was getting quite excited about it.
It was moving on and it looked like it was going to get done but once Paul Lambert rung me, it totally changed things. It was a big decision because I could have gone home and lived closer to my family and all my friends and played for my hometown club.
But once Paul rung me and spoke about coming here – I’d played for him before and knew what a brilliant manager he was. I’d never played here [at Carrow Road] and I came to meet him at the time in Yellows; I had a salad, he had a hot dog. I remember that.
He showed me around the stadium and everything else at the training ground and that was it. It was done. I just wanted to be part of it.
It was going through a difficult time at that period but I believed in him and when I saw the size of it all, I knew straight away that I wanted to be here and it was the best decision I ever made.
Q: Just how special were your early years at the club under Paul Lambert, with the back-to-back promotions?
It couldn’t have gone any better really. I never envisaged it moving along that quickly, as quickly as it did. I thought we’d have a right chance of getting promoted from League One that season, especially with Paul Lambert in charge. To do what we did, back-to-back was amazing. The group of lads, a lot of them I’m still in touch with and some of them have come back to the club to work for it in different guises – it shows how much this city and being part of it meant to them.
What a team to play in – every day, I loved coming into work and being part of that group. It was probably the best part of my career in terms of enjoyment and it probably reflected on the pitch in terms of performances under that manager and with that group. Somehow, it made us all better than we actually were. We all made each other that little bit better.
Q: Playing in the East Anglian derbies is a huge part of being a player for Norwich City. You scored in the 5-1 Portman Road win in 2010 – surely that moment will live with you forever?
I turned towards the Ipswich fans and realised I went the wrong way. I ended up going back [towards the Norwich fans] and as I looked up, my brothers were both on the roof. I thought: “Oh no, what are they doing?” They were going mental, but my eldest brother is a lot calmer and he was stood behind them.
It was an amazing night. The results we got against them during that season – the togetherness between the players and the fans during those two seasons is not easy to get. The relationship we had with them was amazing. To be honest, there’s so many memories from those seasons but the goal and result against Ipswich was a real highlight.
Q: Promotion to the Premier League at Fratton Park was another memorable moment for you. We hear you have a funny story from that evening…
As I said, the relationship between us and the fans was great. They’ve been brilliant for me. There was a bit of a pitch invasion and they managed to stop them [the fans] at some point and I gave my shirt to my brother I think. Someone came over to me and said: “Give me your shorts!” and they were desperate, so I just let him have them. I then realised I was on the pitch in my pants and all the lads had gone in. I ran in, hugged Delia on the way in and I think she was a bit taken aback. But it was a brilliant night and I remember all my mates sending me loads of pictures from Sky Sports News of me jumping around in my pants and the lads in kit.
We all walked into the hotel at 5am in Portsmouth and saw loads of the directors asleep in reception. It was a great time and was crazy because until that point, it was something we didn’t even think about. We got on the coach to that game knowing that if we won, that was it. We kind of knew it was going to happen because of the belief we had.
Q: And the play-off final victory at Wembley with yourself lifting the trophy – that must be another moment you’ll cherish?
To do that for this Football Club, to lift a trophy at Wembley, is the ultimate really. I don’t really think that will ever get topped in my career, no matter what I do. To have all my family sitting in the stands – I saw them when I was warming-up and I had to compose myself a little bit because I was getting a bit emotional.
I’ve played international football and been promoted a few times, but that for me is the pinnacle of anything you can do as a football player. It was special to lift it in front of my family and end up with the trophy in my room all night, the kids were playing with it in the morning - just surreal. It was an amazing day and amazing occasion and I think one that people still talk about now how there were generations - granddads, sons, grandsons - it was amazing everyone got to share that experience together. It was one of the best days of my life.
Q: There have been some low moments during your time at the club which has been part of your journey. How do you reflect on those?
The highs certainly outweigh the lows. I said it to the lads before we got relegated a second time: “It will be the worst feeling you ever have as a footballer”, especially when you care so much for the football club and the people involved with it.
I spoke about it at the time, it’s not nice being part of that because you realise some people who you care about might lose jobs. It wasn’t nice. The first time was so disappointing, we’d stayed up for two years, exceeded expectations and to get relegated hurt so much. The second time – we started the season so well and then it just sort of seemed to peter out and there’s always things you look back and think: “could we have done a little bit more?”
I leave this Football Club knowing that I’ve given everything I possibly can which makes it not easier to accept but I genuinely hope people take note of that and accept that I might not have always been good enough for some people, but I’ve genuinely given everything I possibly can for this Football Club.
Q: 22nd on all-time appearance list and most NCFC Premier League appearances – stats that must fill you with immense pride?
People have said to me about the Premier League record and that’s lovely to have but that’ll get broken at some point. But for me, just to play so many games for a Football Club with a fanbase this size and the people involved in it, it’s genuinely a massive honour for me. I’m proud of that.
My kids are supporters, they’ve all been born here. My family are as disappointed as I am that it’s coming to an end. I’ve always been treated brilliantly by this Football Club. The stats are nice but the it’s the real stuff which means more to me – the relationships I’ve made.
Q: You made plenty of memories at Carrow Road. How much are you going to miss our home?
I’ve missed this place hugely for the last year when I haven’t been playing. Obviously I was on loan for part of last season, but I’ve come to most of the matches. You do miss it and you do want to be on the football pitch, it’s as simple as that. It’s a great stadium, as I said great supporters and fanbase, a community club – everything about it is just brilliant. I look forward to coming back here at some point soon and taking a game in. It will be strange doing it without being attached to the Football Club but I look forward to bringing my kids back and supporting the team.
Q: There have been plenty of highs and lows and the fans have been with you on this journey. How would you sum up your relationship with the supporters?
Overall, I think it’s been hugely positive. I’m sure on social media there’s been times where it hasn’t but I’m not on that and I don’t pay much attention to it. If I’m talking about face-to-face interaction, experiences we’ve shared on the pitch here and away from home – and they might not think it sometimes – but it’s hugely appreciated by the players. They realised who they’re playing for and what they’re playing for.
But I genuinely think it’s been hugely positive. They’ve been brilliant with me around the city and at the Football Club. The letters of support I’ve had over the last year when obviously it’s not been an ideal situation for me, the letters have touched me. I’ve tried to get back to as many as I possibly can, so I really appreciate.
I’d just like to thank them really for the support they have given to not just me but the Club over the time I’ve been here and it’s hugely appreciated and hopefully it will remain positive and they know I’ve given 100% for the Club.
Q: Looking ahead to the future now, what is the plan?
I don’t know yet! I have to take all of this in. I feel really fit, I’ve trained really hard with the Under-23s and to be fair, Matt Gill [head coach], Jay Eastoe-Smith [sports scientist] and those boys have been brilliant with me. They have a really good group there, I’ve genuinely enjoyed trying to add a bit of value and help them guys and hopefully I have.
I really feel like I have a couple of years of playing left in me yet. That’s the plan, to go and find somewhere. It’s not about money or playing at a certain level. It’s about going somewhere where I can see a challenge and a bit of a project I can go and help a team or manager achieve what they want to.
I’ve got a few things that really interest me so hopefully one or two of them come off in the not too distant future. But I’m just desperate to get back playing now. Long-term, I’ve done my “A” Licence and now doing my other coaching diplomas and that’s the plan, to become a coach and I’ve always been quite open and honest about that.
Q: And potentially one day returning here to coach Norwich City Football Club?
That would be beyond brilliant, but we’ll see.