Rams star Martin plans to get one over Irish pals

Chris Martin

Together, they form part of Derby County’s promotion chase but for 90 minutes on Friday fortnight, Chris Martin intends plotting the downfall of his Irish clubmates.

Scotland can go level with Ireland on seven points in Euro 2016 qualifying Group D by winning the clash of the Celtic cousins at Parkhead on November 14.

That Martin is enjoying the most prolific spell of his career is just one reason why Gordon Strachan retains confidence of decelerating Ireland’s early surge to the campaign.

He heads into tonight’s League Cup last-16 tie at Fulham with 10 goals this season, well on his way to surpassing last term’s total of 25.

Talk of the battle has dominated the Derby County dressing room of late, with the 25-year-old Scottish forward vying for the bragging rights from their Irish contingent that includes Jeff Hendrick and Richard Keogh.

Martin O’Neill hopes to add another Ram to the squad this week, provided the paperwork to confirm the eligibility of Cyrus Christie arrives in time, but the Scots are determined to make a statement of their own qualification credentials next month.

“We’re full of confidence from getting four points off Georgia and Poland,” says English-born Martin, who earned his first Scottish cap in May after declaring through his Glasgow-born father.

“The game against Ireland is one we’re all looking forward to and the results for both countries so far have turned it into a massive fixture.

“I’ve been surrounded by Irish players since I joined Derby, with Richard Keogh and Jeff Hendrick in the current squad.

“I wasn’t aware that Cyrus was eligible for Ireland until recently but he’s a top full-back and will be a good addition to the squad.

“The atmosphere I’m sure at Celtic Park will be electric so these are the games you want to play in.”

Like Hendrick, Martin needs to convince his international boss of his readiness to start in 17 days’ time.

It may represent bad news for Irish fans that Martin is hitting a purple patch as the pivotal international looms but the man sprung from the bench against Germany, Georgia and Poland faces competition to dislodge Premier League hitmen Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith for one of the strikers’ berths.

“I’m just happy to be involved, whether that’s as a substitute or starting,” said Martin, a former team-mate of Wes Hoolahan’s at Norwich City.

“The manager (Strachan) has us defending from the front, and it’s a role I enjoy doing.

“Against Ireland at home, the expectation will be on us to attack. Ireland showed by taking a point away to Germany how dangerous they can be and we’ll be well prepared for them.

“Poland and, of course, Germany are both strong too so I think this group might go all the way until the end.

“We’ve got our trips to Germany and Poland out of the way, setting up nicely the visit of Ireland.”

On the club front, the disappointment of losing the Championship play-off in May has served only to heighten Derby’s motivation to reach the Premier League automatically this time. Despite a hiccup at home to Wigan Athletic on Saturday, when a second-half James McClean brace undid them, Derby remain top of the Championship on goal difference. Integral to their ascent has been the securing by manager Steve McClaren of his emerging stars on long-term contracts. Keogh recently followed the lead of Martin and Hendrick by committing his future to the club despite nterest from top-flight suitors.

“We have a young group at Derby, so we are quite impressionable,” says Martin. “The manager is a calm head and we need that at times. He doesn’t want to get too carried away and I think that rubs off on the players.”

That calmness could be a vital asset at Parkhead when Scotland and Ireland square up for Roy Keane predicts will be a brutal battle.


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