24 May 2024

Russell Martin urges Southampton players to stay ‘calm’ ahead of play-off final

24 May 2024

Russell Martin hopes he can pass on some of his own experiences of Championship play-off final success as a player when he looks to guide Southampton back into the Premier League with victory over Leeds at Wembley.

Former Scotland defender Martin captained Norwich in their win against Middlesbrough in May 2015, securing the Norfolk club a swift return to the top flight under Alex Neil, who had only taken over five months previously.

Martin admits it will be a completely different experience when watching from the sidelines on Sunday, but is confident his squad will be ready for the occasion.

“It is such a privilege to play in a game of this magnitude, because you can go your whole career and not be playing in one like this or as a manager,” Martin said at a press conference.

“I woke up (that morning) feeling calm, because of the work we had done in the build-up, but was still really emotional when I saw my family in the crowd.

“However, I had that calmness and I hope that our players will feel the same way (on Sunday).

“They have the chance to feel something spectacular that they will remember forever and have feelings about, because I still remember that day now, it was one of the best.

“I feel like it would be an even better feeling to be on this side of the fence rather than playing – even though it feels 10 times worse not playing and not being on the pitch to control anything, but it will be incredible.”

Added to the mix for Sunday’s showpiece match – with promotion estimated to be worth around £140million – will be Martin going up against Leeds head coach Daniel Farke, who was his former boss at Norwich.

Martin fell out of favour during the German’s time at Carrow Road and eventually left in August 2018 following 309 appearances, his contract terminated by mutual consent.

The 38-year-old, though, insists that is all now very much water under the bridge.

When someone is honest with you, you have to respect that - whether you like what has been said or not.

“We never had a personal problem,” Martin said. “I think people really wanted us to – and they still want us to now because it is a nice story.

“But he was a young manager at the time, I was an old player at the time, with very much my hip and back giving up on me, and he was honest with me and I think that is all you can ever ask for.

“I really didn’t like his decision at the time. I can’t sit here and pretend that is the case.

“When someone is honest with you, you have to respect that – whether you like what has been said or not.”

Scotland forward Che Adams missed both legs of Southampton’s semi-final win over West Brom, but has returned to training and will be available for Sunday along with Ross Stewart.

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