This past week has yet again underlined the vital importance of Derby County’s talismanic front man – Chris Martin.
Is there a better striker in the Championship at the moment than the Rams’ acting captain? With eight goals already this season and no sign that he is going to stop scoring any time soon he is the most valuable player by far. That is high praise indeed when you take into account the strength in the spine of the team, as there are a few players in the current squad who Derby would not be without; George Thorne, Jason Shackell, Richard Keogh and now Bradley Johnson spring to mind straight away.
His record of 54 goals from 107 games at a rate of 1.98 games per goal since signing for Derby on a permanent deal back in 2013 is quite staggering. Apart from one good season at his original club Norwich, his record was not that great. But he’s more than made up for that since.
Some people looking in from the outside would think he is just a big lump up front that scores goals. In all honesty, initially this was also the thought by Derby fans too, however now they all know differently. The old cliché of ‘he’s got good feet for a big man’ are never more accurate than with Martin whose deft flicks and clever passes, as well as having that ability as all good front men do of holding the ball up. Everything good that seems to happen usually revolves around him. As for goalscoring; well he can score from just about anywhere, short range or long range as demonstrated by his goal against Wolves the other week, free-kicks, headers – he has it all.
Perhaps the importance of being a football fan is to not take these sorts of players for granted, and he does have some annoying faults that allow his human nature to show through. The big man does tend to go to ground a little too easy, or perhaps more accurately, clumsily under a challenge – there was an irritating instance against Burnley at Turf Moor a couple of seasons ago where a rush of blood to the head led him to receive a yellow card and subsequent sending off for diving. His penalty taking has also come up short recently, but in Derby’s team he’s not on his own in that department either.
Most astonishingly, especially with all the big money transfers happening of late at the iPro, the best fact about Chris Martin is that he was a free transfer and, quite comfortably, the best bit of long-term business Nigel Clough achieved in his tenure at the club.
Last season I said to my daughter (@ahicken07*), who was initially quite frustrated with Martin’s style of play, that we will not realise how much we would miss him until he wasn’t in the side – and it was no surprise that his injury against Bournemouth was one of the factors leading to our appalling end to the season. So what does the rest of this season have in store for him? I personally am not betting against Martin reaching 20 goals for the third season running. He has already become Derby’s most prolific striker since Bobby Davison in the mid 80s and now sporting the captain’s armband, there’s no sign of him stopping. Let’s hope this season ends in the paradise of promotion.