In the summer of 2013, Nigel Clough picked up striker Chris Martin on a free transfer. It was effectively a “try before you buy” deal as, in the closing months of the previous season, Martin had spent some time on loan with the Rams.
Having watched the striker during his loan spell, I found it difficult to predict that he would spend the next season banging goals in so frequently. But he did. And what a remarkable free transfer he has proved to be. Calls to spend big on a “20 goals a season striker” were quashed. That striker arrived for nothing.
It was perfect. Martin couldn’t break into the Norwich side and he never made huge impressions in his loan spells, he needed somebody to take a chance on him. Derby offered that and he became the nucleus of a very successful and nearly promotion-winning side.
Last season, the ex-Norwich City man scored 25 goals in all competitions. Even in his most successful season with the Canaries, the 2009/10 season in which they won promotion from League One, the striker did not manage that high amount of goals.
The success of last season in terms of his goal record was always going to be difficult to follow up. So far, the signs are that he can follow it up, if not, better his goal tally. 11 goals is the tally so far this campaign. At this point last season, Martin had scored 4 goals.
Despite all of this, I can’t be alone in getting frustrated with him! Seemingly, at times, he is looking to be fouled and goes to ground a lot in many tussles with opposition defenders. You can often see the disgruntlement and annoyance in his face and body language from the stands.
When the team isn’t in the game, he isn’t. When the team is playing well, he is a huge part of it.
There is such a huge reliance on him. It would be worrying to see him out injured. Leon Best, on loan from Blackburn Rovers, hasn’t offered much since arriving. Can Derby, when things aren’t going their way, like in the recent homes games against Wigan and Millwall, change the system to something else? Will Best, in time, be an effective replacement? These are questions still to be answered.
January’s transfer window isn’t too far away. It will be interesting to see if this is addressed then. When the last January window came around, I felt the club missed a chance to help their cause in their promotion ambitions. Yes, the squad was great, but, given the position they were in, it wouldn’t have been a bad thing to dip into the market and try even further to keep up the pace with Leicester, Burnley and QPR.
Anyway, Chris Martin, though I am guilty of moaning at one or two things he does in a game, has been absolutely magnificent and he will be instrumental in this season’s promotion push.