|Nigel Martyn - Goalkeeper|
Oh the irony that the first "new" player finally signed by Everton during the transfer fiasco that was the 2003 transfer window should be Nigel Martyn. It was seven years earlier when a big-money move for Martyn was foiled by Peter Johnson's absence in London, with Clifford Finch insisting that he was too busy to meet the player at Goodison Park, instead commanding him to turn up at Park Foods in Birkenhead.
Martyn himself subsequently confirmed that Everton Director Finch provided driving directions to Leeds after learning that the Yorkshire club had matched Everton's offer!
But it made sense to sign an ex-England keeper who was light years better than Everton currently had as backup to the increasingly unreliable Richard Wright.
Nigel Martyn brought a lot to Leeds after joining for £2.25M from Crystal Palace back in 1996. Having played 273 games in a Leeds shirt he proved his worth and collected 23 international caps for England.
Despite featuring in England's World Cup squad before the start of the 2002-03 season Nigel failed to win back his first team place and talented youngster Paul Robinson became No 1 after being handed the opportunity following a string of injuries to Martyn.
Martyn is a commanding keeper, though, with a likeable laid back personality off the pitch. One of the most consistent Premiership keepers who has been in and around the England squad for years, he has had many backers for the position of England's No 1. His international career would have flourished were it not for David Seaman's continuing involvement, but he still remains one of the finest goalkeepers with a British passport.
Voted into the Premier League Team of the Year 2000 by his fellow professionals, Martyn remained 2nd choice England keeper behind Seaman but when he finally got his big chance against Romania in Euro 2000, he made some great saves. However, a combination of an uncertain defence and Nigel's occasional rush of blood played some part in the infamous 2-3 defeat.
In 2000-01, he suffered a long absence due to a groin injury, and battled to keep his place ahead of Robinson over the next couple of years. However, he returned with his shot-stopping as good as ever and played a major part in the latter half of Leeds's famous Champions League campaign.
In 2002 his overall game was back to its best. He was picked by England for the World Cup squad, but the return to fitness of Seaman left him on the sidelines again. After the World Cup he was reluctant to go on Leeds' tour of the Far East for pre-season and when the squad returned he found that Robinson had done enough to convince new manager Terry Venables that he was the one who would start the new season; he remained on the Leeds bench from then on.
In summer 2003, Peter Reid made it clear, once Robinson pledged his future to stay at Elland Road, that he was going to continue as first choice. Martyn was linked with moves to Chelsea as backup to Carlo Cudicini, and eventually signed for Everton where he might give Richard Wright a run for his money.
And that he certainly did, grasping his chance with both hands, coming in for the 6th game of the season after Wright's knee did him in, and becoming one of few in the squad who could hold his head up high after such a dreadful season. He performed superbly in goal and literally saved Everton from relegation, setting himself up to be voted, unanimously, Everton's Player of the Season.
And Martyn carried on the same vein, despite the full return to fitness for England's Richard Wright. In September 2004, Martyn went for over 8 hrs of Premiership games without conceding a goal. He continued to excel and provide an excellent anchor for the Everton defence until he got injured in December.
Richard Wright's temporary promotion marked an almost predictable loss in form for Everton, who nevertheless were still in the top four when Martyn returned in February. His confidence and assured handling was no doubt a vital factor in Everton holding on to 4th spot despite adopting relegation form for the second half of the season.
This point perhaps received fulsome emphasis when Richard Wright returned for the last two games of the season (fourth place already assured) and shipped 10 goals. Martyn was rewarded for his efforts with a one-year contract extension despite hitting 39, with Turner and now Ruddy snapping at his heels.
As Everton entered the 2005-06 season, Martyn was, of course, that bit closer to 40 and, occasionally, looking like age was catching up with him. The wear and tear of the Premiership eventually caused a stress fracture to come up in his ankle and sadly that forced Nigel to hang up his goalkeeping gloves but there is no question that Nigel was the best Everton goalkeeper since Neville Southall.
Last Updated by Ian Delaney, June 2006
EL Group Draw: 29 Aug
Everton News 24/7