A father and a goal scorer

Norwich’s Russell Martin had travelled with the team and was preparing for the game against Liverpool when he got the call to go home. He made it in time for the arrival of his yet-to-be-named son, and then had a swift turnaround to get back for the 4 pm kick-off after no sleep and promptly scored.

Scoring a goal at Anfield is pretty special. Becoming a father is even more of a life-changing event.

Doing both on the same day would seem unbelievable but that is exactly what Russell Martin did on a Super Sunday. The defender was left to reflect on a “sensational” 24 hours after a mad dash home from Merseyside for the birth of his third child before returning to score the equaliser against Liverpool.

The 29-year-old had travelled with the team and was preparing for the game against Liverpool when he got the call to go home. He made it in time for the arrival of his yet-to-be-named son, weighing in at 8lbs, and then had a swift turnaround to get back for the 4pm kick-off after no sleep and promptly scored.

“It has been a long but sensational 24 hours,” said Martin after covering 750 miles with another 250 still to do to get back to the newborn. “I flew up with the squad,” he said, speaking after the match. “My wife had no twinges at that point and then she rang me at seven o’clock to say she had started to feel some contractions but wasn’t sure whether they were Braxton Hicks false ones or not. I said ‘Give it a couple of hours’ and then she rang me at 10.30 to say ‘This is it, this is happening.’ One of the sports scientists had brought my car, fortunately, in case I had to get back. Me and the player liaison took two hours each in the car driving back and I took her (his wife) to hospital and we got there about four in the morning and she gave birth at 9.25am.

“I had to leave at half-10 as I spoke to the management and they were keen for me to play. I love this place, the atmosphere, and I had family coming so I didn’t want to let them down.

“I flew up with the directors, Delia Smith and (husband) Michael Jones — the owners — and they were great. I got here a bit late, missed the captains’ meeting, ran in, got dressed, was ready with the lads, scored a goal — brilliant. It will be a great story to tell the wee man.

“I hadn’t slept a wink. I was running on empty towards the end — I was absolutely gone — but it was a great day and it makes it all worth it.”

Martin admits it has been such a rush he and his wife have still not had time to pick a name. “I don't know what he’s called yet,” he said. “We’ve only had nine months to decide! We are still in fierce debate. I was only there 45 minutes. I can’t wait to get home and have a cuddle.”

Martin could have been forgiven for missing the match but manager Alex Neil revealed he let the player decide and he proved more than worthy of a place despite his lack of sleep. “I think it shows how dedicated he is to the team,” said Neil. “I left the decision up to him. Russ understands how important the group is for us and there was no way he would put himself forward if it would harm the group and his performance showed he was more than ready.”

It is the sort of commitment that Norwich have shown ever since Neil took over and led them to promotion via the Championship play-offs. They look well on course to secure Premier League survival this early, this season and results so far will at least mean Neil can enjoy a good night’s sleep, even if the same might not apply to Martin.

© PA Sport