RUSS SADDLES UP FOR COACH TRIP...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS - By Dan Barnes

IF FATE is kind, then Rus­sell Martin may one day make it into man­age­ment – and the ground­work has al­ready be­gun.

Af­ter his lengthy as­so­ci­a­tion with Nor­wich con­cluded at the end of last sea­son, the 32-year-old waited un­til Oc­to­ber to start the next chap­ter of his ca­reer, join­ing Wal­sall on a year-long deal as player-coach.

Re­united with Sad­dlers boss Dean Keates, Martin is a ma­jor part of the Wal­sall man­age­ment team along­side his old Peter­bor­ough team­mate and as­sis­tant Andy Davies.

He’s also started his coach­ing badges and is cur­rently work­ing to­wards the LMA’s diploma in foot­ball man­age­ment qual­i­fi­ca­tion but there’s plenty of life left in Martin’s legs yet – the man formerly dubbed the ‘Nor­folk Cafu’ just has one eye trained on the fu­ture.

“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in coach­ing. I start my pro li­cence in Jan­uary with the SFA and it’s the rea­son I find my­self at Wal­sall work­ing un­der the man­ager that I am, some­one I know and trust,” said Martin, who had made five Sad­dlers ap­pear­ances head­ing into this week­end.

“Ev­ery­one says ‘play as long as you can’ and noth­ing can ever re­place that but, at the same time, I’m also aware that I’m not get­ting any younger, so you’ve got to start pre­par­ing.

Pre­par­ing

“Gone are the days when you get to 35 and go ‘what do I do now?’, es­pe­cially if you’re go­ing to get into coach­ing and man­age­ment be­cause there’s only a lim­ited num­ber of jobs and plenty of com­pe­ti­tion for them.

“They’ve re­ally in­volved me in ev­ery­thing; all the anal­y­sis and ev­ery­thing. I’m play­ing at the minute, so it is hard to take too many ses­sions but I’ve done lots of in­di­vid­ual stuff and I’m en­joy­ing it.

“I think one of the rea­sons Dean brought me in is be­cause he wants a voice in the dress­ing room and a coach, al­most, when we’re out on the pitch. Hope­fully, I’ve made a dif­fer­ence.

“Even­tu­ally (I’d like to be­come a man­ager) – oth­er­wise I wouldn’t be do­ing these cour­ses – but it’s not some­thing that you can just jump into.” With so much more to take on board than ever be­fore, this is a sea­son of un­prece­dented change for dad-of-three Martin. The right-back watched on from afar as Scot­land beat Is­rael to win their UEFA Na­tions League group in mid­week and, hav­ing won the lat­est of his 29 caps in March, he ad­mits his in­ter­na­tional ca­reer is ef­fec­tively over. “I had a chat with the man­ager (Alex McLeish) when he first came in,” said Martin. “I re­ally en­joyed play­ing for Scot­land but we had a chat and agreed that it’s time for the new lads to come through.

“It be­comes dif­fi­cult, at times, the in­ter­na­tional stuff be­cause you’re al­ways away from the kids. I loved be­ing in­volved and you never say never but I en­joyed watch­ing the new group on Tues­day.”

To mat­ters at the Banks’s Sta­dium, then – in just un­der a week’s time, Wal­sall re­new hos­til­i­ties with yes­ter­day’s op­po­si­tion Sun­der­land in the FA Cup sec­ond round.

Im­por­tant

A round away from be­ing in the hat with the big boys, Martin says there can be no un­der­stat­ing the im­por­tance of the tie.

“In terms of a round two draw, you couldn’t ask for a big­ger club,” said the Sad­dlers player-coach.

“The man­ager, my­self and Andy have all said that the cup can be a great plat­form for peo­ple to show what they’re about.

“It gives them a real chance to test them­selves against bet­ter op­po­si­tion if they get through to that third round and maybe play at a huge sta­dium in front of a huge crowd for the first time.”

PIC­TURE: PA Im­ages

FRESH CHAL­LENGE: Rus­sell Martin, right, in ac­tion for Wal­sall against Charl­ton and, in­set, cel­e­brat­ing pro­mo­tion to the Pre­mier League in 2015

CHAT: McLeish BOSS: Keates

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