Interview with Russell Martin: Taking Southampton to the Premier League would mean everything | football news

Amid all the chaos of preparing for the biggest game of his coaching career, there has still been some calm within the storm for Russell Martin.

For a coach so used to the rigors of the EFL, having more than a week with the entire team to prepare for a single match is very, very rare.

“If we had this every week it would be beautiful!” he says sky sports with a smile.

“That moment when you are on the pitch is the best part of the job for me. It is a great motivation to get there personally, with this team and this club.

“It would definitely be one of the advantages of getting to the Premier League: having time to train, work and try really crazy things on the training pitch.

“The dream is to put this team on the biggest stage every week, to show what they can do and how brave they can be. Now we are just one game away from achieving it.”

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Highlights from the second leg of the Sky Bet Championship play-off semi-final between Southampton and West Brom

That game, of course, is the most important game of all. The Championship play-off final at Wembley, which will see Martin’s Southampton and Leeds United go head to head for a place in next season’s Premier League.

Martin, still 38, knows that while most things can stay the same, you simply have to change your preparation.

“There will be no different messages from other games this season and we will train in the same way,” he says.

“But we can’t pretend that it’s a normal game, because it’s not. It’s a big occasion and we have to take that into account, because we have to prepare the players for that.”

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It has been a strange season in some ways for Martin and Southampton. Raising a club from the field is not always easy, and a total of 87 points they accumulated would allow you to automatically promote in some seasons. For them to finish fourth with that number is unprecedented.

Martin remains proud of what they have achieved.

“I suppose most people would consider it a failure to finish fourth in this league with Southampton,” he says.

“But we were worse than the two teams that lost to us last season, we had three different coaches and we had to sell players.

“I was delighted with the team we had, but of course there would be a certain level of damage caused by relegation. I am very proud of what we achieved this season.”

Martin’s pride is also based on his belief that he is at a club to develop people as well as players. It is a mentality that has kept him so popular at his former clubs as a player and coach, especially at his most recent club, Swansea, where he is still loved despite failing to reach the play-offs in his two seasons there.

“The people whose opinions matter to me are those who know us and understand us,” he says. “The fact that we have so many people coming from Swansea to Wembley means a lot to me. It shows that we had a certain level of connection there that went beyond results and football. I hope it’s the same here.

“I have a lot of love and gratitude for the players and the staff here, so if you can make that connection and win too, it has to be the best, really.

“I do what I think is right, and that is to care and give everything I can to people. That is always my intention. All I want to do is help develop players as people and as footballers as best as I can.” .

Naturally, the conversation turns back to the ending. On the opposite bench will be Daniel Farke, the man who effectively ended Martin’s stay at Norwich while he was captain of the club.

However, it’s not in Martin’s nature to treat it as some kind of drama or subplot. He does not believe this will make much difference to proceedings at Wembley.

“I’ve also faced Paul Lambert and Alex Neil,” he says. “It’s always good to catch up with my old managers.

“I didn’t play much for Daniel so it’s not the same as those guys, but I respect what he’s done with Norwich and now Leeds. “The work he’s done at this level has been outstanding.

“You may know a little bit about his work and his process, but I’m sure he’s developed and evolved a lot since I played for him, because everyone does it over time.

“Ultimately, it’s not about us, it’s about the teams and who can handle the emotion and the occasion, and who has the best game plan and executes it.”

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What they do have on their record are two victories against Leeds this season already in the regular campaign. However, he also downplays this, citing the fact that the other two EFL play-off finals were won by teams who had not beaten their opponents previously: Oxford and then Crawley.

“The other two games have shown that it doesn’t really matter, because the occasion takes control,” says Martin. “The players know they can do it, but Leeds will also want to show they can.

“But whatever happens we will do it together. We will try to be the team we want to be and we will not leave anything out. If we do it, we will not regret it.”

Martin won promotion as captain, leading Norwich to victory at Wembley in 2015. Doing so as a manager would simply mean everything.

“The responsibility of leading this club is big anyway, so to do it at Wembley is huge,” he says. “I feel very grateful right now, I love what I do and who I do it with. It’s a great privilege, but I want to make it really memorable by winning.

“I get excited thinking about it now because it would be incredible, the greatest achievement of my life apart from being a father, and one of the best days of my life.

“The memories and moments we could create would mean everything. Anything that came after, like becoming a Premier League manager, would be secondary. It’s about how you can make people feel.”

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