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Club Connector - Nigel Martyn

by Hamish Dufton @efchamishdufton

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CRYSTAL PALACE
November 1989 to July 1996 
Appearances: 350

EVERTON
September 2003 to May 2006 
Appearances: 100

MOYES’ GREATEST EVER SIGNING

Having been Leeds United’s first choice keeper for six seasons, it was perhaps surprising that a goalkeeper of the calibre Nigel Martyn would become available.

The Cornishman, signed in July 1996 for £2.25million, would go on to be named by Whites fans in their ‘greatest team’ having seen off such favourites as John Lukic and Gary Sprake as their top keeper.

He had starred as Leeds United blazed a trail through the 1999/2000 Champions League, eliminating the likes of Roma, Barcelona, Lazio and Deportivo La Coruna before succumbing to Valencia in the semi-finals.

But a falling out with then manager Terry Venables, and the emergence of future England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, meant that Martyn was dropped to the bench. He failed to make a single appearance in any competition in the 2002/03 campaign and was told to seek a new club.

In came both Everton and Chelsea, seeking competition for their respective number ones Richard Wright and Carlo Cudicini.

Thankfully, it was David Moyes and not Claudio Ranieri who turned out to be the most persuasive – not bad given the southern Blues were rumoured to be offering a substantial wage rise – and Martyn signed in September 2003.

Martyn in action for Everton v Crystal Palace

SECOND CHANCE

Coincidentally, Everton had gone in for the highly-rated Martyn when he was still at Palace.

Having started his career on the non-league circuit in his native Cornwall, the custodian had been offered a trial at Bristol Rovers via the Pirates’ tea lady who had been pestered to pass on a note to the management from a carpet shop owner who had watched him in action for St Blazey.

He was transferred to Crystal Palace for £1million in 1989, becoming the first goalkeeper to attract a million-pound transfer fee in English football. It was at Palace that Martyn first gained international recognition with a call up to the full England side.

He remained at Palace for seven seasons, appearing 349 times for his club, including the 1990 FA Cup Final, where Palace were beaten by Manchester United in a replay, and the 1991 Zenith Data Systems Cup final in which Palace beat Everton.

In 1996, he signed with Leeds United, setting another record fee for a goalkeeper of £2.25m.

Such was Martyn’s standing in the eyes of Eagles supporters that, in 2005, they voted him into their Centenary XI.

Martyn and Stubbs

WRIGHT IN THE THICK OF IT

Richard Wright was the Blues' first choice keeper when Martyn arrived but six games into the 2003/04 campaign, the former Ipswich and Arsenal keeper picked up an injury that let in his fellow glovesman.

And Martyn never looked back. Despite the return to fitness of Wright, the veteran’s form was exceptional and he remained the number one for the rest of the season.

Even at 38, Martyn was one of Everton's best performers in the 2004/05 campaign when they achieved their best Premier League finish of fourth. Unfortunately, in his final year with the club, injuries began to affect his playing time, particularly a troublesome ankle.

His final appearance as a professional was in the FA Cup tie with Chelsea on 28 January 2006 – his 100th outing as a Toffee.

His ability between the sticks meant he was a favourite not only amongst the fans, but also within the ranks of his team-mates, as Alan Stubbs can testify.

“Nigel would be up there with the best keepers I have played with,” he said. “Equal probably with Tim Howard. Nigel was a top, top keeper.

“His concentration was fantastic – sometimes he wouldn’t do anything for long periods of the game then suddenly he would make vital saves. He was a great talker and communicator, which was really good for his defence.

“I think he should have got more England caps. He was unfortunate to find himself around when David Seaman was number one – and that’s the sole reason why he didn’t get more. David was a top keeper himself and because it’s the best players, you can find that you can go through a full international career but only pick up 15 caps or so, even though you have been top draw yourself. And Nigel found himself in that category. It was just unfortunate for him.

“But for Everton, it used to give us a massive confidence boost knowing we had someone behind us who you completely trusted. He gave you confidence because if something did happen, you know he would be there. He was always alive, prowling his 18 yard box. It was a great comfort knowing he was behind you.”

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