One is the most capped Brazilian player of all time, the other is a right back for high flying Norwich City. Russell Martin, or as Canaries fans affectionately know him, ‘The Norfolk Cafu’ says his side are not going to throw it away now with seven games to play.
Brighton-born Martin has played every League game for second placed Norwich this season and he believes that Saturday’s clash against fourth placed Swansea will be a great advert for the Championship.
“In my opinion it’s the two best passing teams in the league coming up against each other and it’s up to us to try and impose our game on them and not let them dictate to us,” said Martin, who pinpointed Swansea wingers Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer as the Swansea’s biggest threats.
“It will be an exciting game to watch for the neutrals and the fans. There will be lots of football played because both teams play the game in the right way and pass the ball a lot,” he added.
Norwich currently lie in the second automatic promotion place, nine points behind runaway leaders Queens Park Rangers and four points clear of Welsh rivals Cardiff and Swansea. Saturday’s game gives the Canaries a chance to go seven points clear of Swansea, and with Cardiff travelling to relegation strugglers Doncaster, three points would cement their position in the automatic promotion spot.
Their promotion push has also been strengthened by the acquisition of Spain U21 star Daniel Pachecho on loan from Liverpool. The Spaniard, who began his career at Barcelona, can play as a striker or as an attacking midfielder, with the twenty-year-old filling the position that has been left by the injured Wes Hoolahan at the head of a diamond midfield.
In an interview before the Swansea game, Martin said Pachecho had “set the game alight” on his debut last week as a rampant Norwich side thrashed Scunthorpe 6-0.
“No one expected him to be as good as he was on his debut, he’s got great movement, he’s great with both feet and he can pick a pass.
“He threaded some great balls through on Saturday and if players like Fabregas and Xavi had done the same, we’d have been watching it all week on television,” said Martin.
In Grant Holt, the young Pachecho should find the perfect foil for his range of passing and Martin spoke about how important the target man has been this season for Norwich’s Premier League aspirations.
“The manager has described him as an old fashioned number nine, which is exactly what he is because defenders hate playing against him.
“People outside the club questioned whether he could do it at this level, everyone at the club knew he could do it and he’s proved a few people wrong this year that’s for sure and long may that continue,” said Martin, a week after Holt scored his fiftieth goal for the club against Scunthorpe.
As for being likened to one of the best right backs to have graced the game, Martin admitted he knew nothing about the fans’ nickname for him until a few weeks ago when a supporter spotted him in the cinema and asked him to sign his ‘Norfolk Cafu’ t-shirt.
“I was surprised at first but it’s great and hopefully it just shows that the fans value the job that I’m doing for the team, I give 100% every game and it just shows they appreciate your efforts.
“I heard a song about it a few weeks ago and when you’ve got a few fans singing your name it’s a great feeling,” said Martin.
The full back’s consistency has been a feature of Norwich’s success this season and he thinks the manager’s decision to give him a decent run in the side has helped him perform week in week out and stay injury free.
“I’m enjoying my football, it’s been a great season for me and I love playing for the manager and playing for this club. It’s an honour to play for a club like this and you can’t help but enjoy it,” he said.
Norwich have a difficult run in with games against Watford (away) and Nottingham Forest (home) still to come, but the big test will come on April 21 where they travel to Portman Road to face fierce local rivals Ipswich Town.
With only seven games between the Canaries and the Premier League, you could forgive the squad for being a little nervous before Saturday’s game but Martin insists the squad are ready for the step up to the big time.
“I’ve not seen any nerves to be honest, the lads are enjoying it that much, they’ve just taken it in their stride, I think its more excitement than anything really, excitement about what we can achieve.
“The lads are really focussed because no one gave us a chance outside of this city and I think it’s a great achievement for us to have been in and amongst the top four for as long as we have. We’ve worked our socks off all year and we’re not going to throw it away now.”