LET’S MEET AGAIN IN PREMIER LEAGUE
Martin: Keeping cool is key to derby
IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs then you can win an East Midlands derby, according to Chris Martin.
There has been a red card in each of the last three encounters between Nottingham Forest and Derby at the City Ground and, in the last two, the side to finish with ten men went down 1-0.
Richard Keogh was the guilty party last year, heading back early to the Derby dressing room, though he got his revenge when he captained his side to a 5-0 victory in March.
And Martin, who played in both contests between the great rivals last year, feels the team that best keep their emotions in check will come out on top.
“We’ve got to try and keep our cool, because in a derby it’s easy for teams to get carried away with the occasion and the atmosphere,” said the striker, who this week signed a new four-year contract.
“It’s going to be a very tough game. They were top of the table before the international break and going very well.
“But we like to express ourselves and that won’t change.We want to win every game. We’ve got a young, hungry team and we’ll stand up to them. It’s difficult to know what’s going to happen, but we’ve prepared very well this week and done some good work.
“We cannot afford to think about last season’s result (5-0) on Sunday, we’ve got to get it out of our heads.
“I’m sure the fans still remember it, but Forest have new players and a new manager and we need to forget last season too. I think it will be a tight game this time.”
Martin hit 25 goals last season as Derby reached the Championship play-off final and has chipped in with four already this term as they again find themselves in the upper echelon of the division.
The 25-year-old’s importance to the club was highlighted by his new deal, becoming the eighth player to commit his future in recent weeks following Craig Bryson and Will Hughes.
And Martin believes the iPro Stadium is a great place to be at the moment.
“My time here has gone well from a personal point of view,” he said.“There were a few delays in getting the contract finalised, but it was just a case of getting the time to sort out negotiations. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to sign.
“I’m very positive about the future here. We’ve sold over 20,000 season tickets, we’ve got a great following and all the players here are eager for success.
“The coaching staff are exactly the same and it feels like everyone is really pulling in the same direction.”
Martin’s popularity at Derby will skyrocket this afternoon should he hit the winning goal. And his burgeoning reputation as a feared frontman has not gone unnoticed on the international scene.
Gordon Strachan handed Martin his first Scotland cap in May’s 2-2 draw with Nigeria at Craven Cottage and he was an unused substitute for the Tartan Army in Dortmund last weekend, as they fell to a 2-1 defeat against world champions Germany in the first match of their European Championship qualifying campaign.
A change to qualification criteria, due to the tournament’s expansion by UEFA chief Michel Platini, has boosted Scotland’s hopes of competing at a major tournament finals for the first time since the 1998 World Cup in France – also the setting for Euro 2016.
Martin, however, is not allowing himself to dream of being there with Scotland, but does credit a former international manager with his current feelings of love for the game.
Steve McClaren, unceremoniously dismissed as England manager in 2007, walked through the doors at Derby 12 months ago and immediately began rejuvenating their fortunes.
While needing to perform a swift repair job at the club, the 53-year-old also had work to do to restore his own standing within the game on these shores.
Following his dismissal as England boss for failing to guide the team to Euro 2008 qualification, McClaren sought challenges abroad, before taking the reins at Forest in 2011.
Ten league games later he resigned, yet Martin believes you would be hardpushed at Derby to find anyone doubting his managerial credentials.
“The manager has been brilliant for all of the lads,” he added.“He’s given us the responsibility to go and express ourselves. When he came here we were a young group that just needed some direction and that’s exactly what he gave us – guidance, but respect as well.
“He’s trying to lead us to promotion and we were probably among the favourites in the summer. Forest will have the same ambition, so I guess the dream is that we play this derby again next year in the Premier League.”
TUSSLE: Derby’s Chris Martin in action with Nottingham Forest’s Danny Collins last season