Leeds United Change

Leeds United Nigel Martyn

My match day routine for a home game.

We’d have to be at the ground for 1:45pm for a 3pm kick off. We lived about 20minutes from Elland Road at the time, but I’m a stickler for time and would always set off leaving 45 minutes for the journey ‘just in case’. Matches were always a family occasion and we’d always take the kids along so I tended to be the one hurrying everyone up to get in the car. It was only once I’d parked up at the ground that I could really relax. Amanda would take Thomas and Kate up to the players lounge and I’d then go and prepare. At that point my mind would start to focus on the game ahead.

Premier League

It’s tough to choose just one game as there are so many memories, but one game that stands out from Elland Road oddly wasn’t a great one personally. It should have been a comfortable home win, we were 3rd or 4th in the table at the time but we found ourselves 0-3 down within half an hour against Derby County, who were in the lower half of the table. Being 0-3 down usually means game over, but not for that group of players on that day. It’s fair to say the crowd were getting restless but we were determined to get back into the game. Harry Kewell pulled a goal back just before half-time. In the 2nd half I think it was Lee Bowyer got a couple and then Jimmy Floyd-Hasslebank scored to win a storming game 4-3.

There was always good banter in the dressing room and there were a few things that went on which supporters might think a bit strange. One away match at Bolton, Robbie Fowler produced a 5 pence coin before the game and set a challenge for every outfield player to hold the coin at some point during the ninety minutes. No one was allowed to refuse the coin apart from myself as keeper. So all the outfield players were busy passing this coin to each other out on the pitch. What it did was to brighten everybody’s mind, it put the guys in a real good frame of mind. We quietly had a laugh about what was happening but it somehow gave us a freedom about our approach and play. We stopped the challenge at half time as we were already 3-0 up and everyone had held the coin. It brought us together and is just one example of what was a strong group of players.

Champions League

My goalkeeping coach at Elland Road at the time was Steve Sutton and the other keepers I trained with were Paul Robinson and Scott Carson. We had real quality keepers in the squad. Steve would train the four of us really hard away from the rest of the squad for the first hour, focusing on strengths and weaknesses, working hard and repetitively day in day out. We’d then go and join in with the rest of the lads on practicing set pieces, shooting practice etc.

We were reasonably successful as a club without ever really breaking through and winning something major. Qualifying for Europe and getting into the Champions League were probably the highlights during my time at the club.

The home game on the 19 September 2000 against A.C. Milan really stands out. Their team was packed with stars such as Shevchenko & Bierhoff. We had real injury problems at centre half which meant Danny Mills had to play out of position and take up that role. It was a rainy night and the whole team played really well. Late on in the game Lee Bowyer pounced on an error by their goalkeeper Dida to score the only goal of the night. But what I remember most about that game was the noise of the supporters. It was something to behold, the whole stadium was reverberating with a wall of noise. It was an absolute pleasure to play in a stadium that was creating such an atmosphere.

When a team is backed by such a passionate support & the atmosphere is that special, it certainly seems to affect the outfield players and just makes them run that bit more. There might be times when in your mind you think I’m not going to close down that player, or not get to that ball, because I’m feeling tired, when all of a sudden the crowd roar and as a player you respond to that and find that extra bit of pace or determination to get a block in, make that tackle or stretch for a ball. Not only does it give you a boost but at the same time it does have an impact on the opposition. They can become edgy, not so confident, it all helps, with 40,000 people screaming the opposition can retreat into their shells a little and not perform. On paper AC Milan were by far the favourites for the game but on the night didn’t perform and I’m sure the crowd contributed to that.

Signing for Leeds United.

Signing for Leeds United came about in slightly odd circumstances. I’d been on the transfer list at Crystal Palace but basically no one had come in for me over that time, everyone seemed fairly settled so I came off the transfer list, around March I think it was, but then in the close season Everton made a bid, Palace accepted it and I assumed that was the club I was going to sign for. As we were en-route to Merseyside, my agent, who was in the car ahead of me, rang to say he’d had a call from London and that Leeds United had been in touch with Palace and had matched Everton’s offer. Palace had accepted both bids, so it was down to me to decide. We arrived at Everton and it was something of a strange situation really. Joe Royle couldn’t be there as his wife was very ill and the chairman was away on business, so it was left to one of the directors to look after the whole situation. He clearly wasn’t aware of Leeds United’s bid, I think he assumed it was a foregone conclusion that I was signing and became a bit flustered when he found out, and basically gave us the directions to West Yorkshire. We set off and the welcome could not have been more different, they were ready and prepared and determined to secure my signature.

After Leeds

I did of course subsequently sign for Everton six years later and enjoyed my time there. Throughout my career, I left each club with a good relationship with the fans. I still look out for the results of all my former clubs along with the team I support, Plymouth Argyle.

I eventually retired through a stress fracture to my ankle and at the time I was offered the chance to play in some absolutely fantastic football matches, which I had to turn down, including Alan Ball’s testimonial game at Wembley where I would have been playing for England versus the Rest of the World. The injury still impacts on what sports I can play nowadays, I enjoy golf and have recently started playing cricket again, which I played up until I started football professionally.

Nigel Martyn

Follow Nigel on Twitter @NMartyn25

Nigel is supporting the Sporting Memories Network's project in Leeds. Read more here and add your own favourite memories of LUFC to support fans living with dementia and depression

4 Comments (Add your voice)

Best goalkeeper Leeds ever had.

– David Fleming, July 19 2013 at 10:58

Best goalkeeper we have ever had - possibly - although David Harvey and Gary Sprake might run him very very close.

– John Cave, September 29 2013 at 18:00

Definitely THE best keeper I've ever had the privilege of seeing play in a Leeds shirt. Always written off by the media for the golden boy Seaman.

– Craig Tanner, October 2 2013 at 19:33

Nigel Martyn is my all time favourite Leeds United player. I have had the pleasure to meet him something i will keep with me always. I love him so much i have personalized number plate on my car with his name. Best Leeds goalkeeper ever. Thanks Nigel xx

– Susan Smith, December 14 2013 at 18:41

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