Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View | OneFootball

Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View | OneFootball

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·19 May 2024

Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View

Article image:Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View

At 35 years old, Chris Martin is in the twilight years of his career but 11 years ago, he made a loan move to Derby County that proved to be special for both player and club.

In January 2007, Martin made his debut for Norwich City in a 1-0 loss at Carrow Road to Wolverhampton Wanderers. Just two weeks later, the striker scored the first of 182 career goals in a 3-2 FA Cup fourth round replay against Blackpool.

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Martin would feature 17 more times for the Canaries in the 2006/07 season, scoring four league goals. However, appearances started to dry up and he was loaned to League Two Luton Town for the start of the 2008/09 campaign.

After a successful loan at the Hatters, the former Scotland international became a mainstay in Norwich's strikeforce, with the club now playing their football in the third tier. He repaid the faith that manager Paul Lambert placed in him - scoring 17 goals as his team ran away with the League One title.

But, his rich vein of form did not seem to crossover on his return to the Championship, as he was loaned out to Crystal Palace and Swindon Town in consecutive seasons.

Martin's deal at Swindon expired in early January 2013 and on his return to Carrow Road, he was still out of favour, with Premier League football on offer for the second season in a row in East Anglia.

Up step Derby to loan in the then 24-year-old.

On an initial one-month move, Martin scored twice before his deal was extended until the end of the season. His first came against local rivals Leicester City in a 2-1 win at Pride Park Stadium. The extension delighted Nigel Clough, the Rams' manager at the time.

“He’s not played too many games this season, so he’s been a little short in terms of match fitness and that side of his game will improve with the more games he plays, but in terms of his quality and use of the ball, we have been very pleased with him.”

Article image:Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View

Derby finished 10th in a great season, with Clough making the 6ft target man his second signing ahead of the 2013/14 season. Martin arrived on a free from Norwich after his contract expired at the club he had called home since the age of nine.

Martin almost inspired Derby promotion

The Rams started the season inconsistently, costing Clough his job after a 1-0 loss to rivals Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Steve McClaren was the new man to take the club forward, returning to Derby for the first time since 1999 when he was the assistant manager to Jim Smith.

McClaren got the team firing on all cylinders. They would rise to fifth in the table by December, embarking on a nine-game unbeaten run - winning eight of those to take the team second after a 2-1 win away at Barnsley to round out 2013, with Martin netting both.

The former Scotland number nine was pivotal up front during this period, scoring his first-ever league hat-trick in a 5-1 demolition of Blackpool, as well as notching up three assists at home against Doncaster Rovers as the Rams ran-out 3-1 winners.

Article image:Derby County: Norwich City transfer should go down in folklore - View

The striker did go through patches in the season without goals, however, failing to find the net for a month between the end of December and January. This happened once again in February and March - with Derby failing to score in four consecutive matches before they welcomed Forest to DE24.

Despite a continuation of his own goal drought, McClaren's side were ruthless against their biggest rival in March 2014. A Craig Bryson hat-trick, alongside a Jeff Hendrick finish and Johnny Russell wonderstrike saw a crushing 5-0 victory for the home side – their biggest win over Forest since 1898.

This result set Derby on the path to finish third in the Championship, setting up a play-off semi-final against Brighton & Hove Albion.

Brighton took an early lead in the first leg through Jesse Lingard, but, Martin fired in to equalise from the penalty spot before forcing goalkeeper Tomasz Kuszczak into an own goal to give the East Midlands side a 2-1 lead in the return leg at Pride Park.

Wembley beckoned for Derby for the first time since 2007 after a 4-1 second-leg win, with Martin grabbing his second of the tie as Brighton were beaten 6-2 on aggregate.

Nevertheless, after a brilliant season in the league, it was not to be for the Rams in the final. A 90th-minute Bobby Zamora winner crushed their Premier League dreams as Queens Park Rangers celebrated promotion at Wembley Stadium.

More Derby heartache and a surprise loan

After an extremely disappointing end to a terrific season, Derby aimed to return to the top flight automatically in 2014/15.

McClaren's side started brilliantly, and by November the team sat top of the table. The Rams would continue to sit in and around the automatic spot until February, when the season started to crumble.

Martin had scored 16 goals in 30 Championship appearances as his side edged towards the title, but a hamstring injury forced him to the sidelines for nine games - much longer than the previously anticipated two-week ruling.

Injuries to fellow forwards, Darren Bent and Leon Best, left the team without a recognised striker as they slumped to a run of just two wins in 13 matches and finished eighth.

The former Norwich man ended 2014/15 with 18 goals, just two off his record the previous season, but the extended period of injury proved costly. McClaren was sacked by owner Mel Morris, becoming the new manager of Newcastle United after months of speculation, just weeks after the final game of the season. Derby were in limbo.

Paul Clement was named as the new man to lead the Championship stricken side forward, a managerial move that was perfect for Martin, as he was named captain. He once again finished the campaign as the club's top scorer for the third season in a row. But, after sacking Clement for a poor run of form, it was play-off heartbreak once again as Hull City defeated Derby 3-2 on aggregate.

The 2016/17 season was the beginning of a prolonged ending for the then 28-year-old. A loan move to Fulham surprised many in the fanbase - including the returnin McClaren, who was rehired in October 2016 after the sacking of Nigel Pearson with the Rams sitting 20th in the league.

After a stellar start to life at the club, more and more Martin found himself out of favour. Loans to Reading and Hull between 2018 and 2019 looked to be the conclusion of his stay in black and white.

However, with former Barcelona midfielder Phillip Cocu taking the reins in 2019, the striker found himself a needed man.

His first goal since returning to the team came against Leeds United, equalising in the dying embers against the eventual champions. In a flashback to years gone by, Martin scored a further ten more times, racking up

With 76 goals in all competitions, Martin finished his Derby County career 16th in the all-time top scorers list. His second to last, a 97th minute equaliser against Forest - his only goal in the East Midlands derby.

With the Rams hitting on hard times financially, Martin moved onto Bristol City at the age of 31. Now at Bristol Rovers, after a short stint at QPR, he scored against his former club at Pride Park in November 2023 as he got back to his best, finishing the season on 16 goals in League One.

Despite the years out on loan, he will always have a place in the hearts of Derby fans after taking the club so close to the promised land of the Premier League. Indeed, his free transfer from Norwich is one that will go down in club folklore.

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