Chris Martin has claimed he was oblivious to the boos that heralded his introduction against Slovenia and after which he repaid Gordon Strachan’s faith with the goal that kept alive Scotland’s World Cup campaign.
The on-loan Fulham forward was greeted with jeers when he replaced James Morrison in the 82nd minute of Scotland’s vital qualifier at Hampden Park. Six minutes later, with the game goalless and Strachan staring at a result that may well have prompted his departure as manager, Martin struck his third international goal beyond Atlético Madrid’s Jan Oblak to secure a thoroughly deserved Scotland victory.
“I wasn’t aware of it, no, but I’ve been told about it since,” said the striker of his unfavourable reception. “That’s up to them to judge. I was just worried about going on and getting what I think we deserved. I’m happy I’m the one who got the winner but it’s much bigger than me. It’s for the country and this keeps our hopes alive.”
Strachan’s perseverance with Martin, whose mother club is Derby County, has caused consternation with some Scotland supporters throughout the manager’s tenure, not only against Slovenia on Sunday. But the 28-year-old insists his self-confidence had not been affected by the criticism that preceded his crucial goal.
The striker added: “I knew I had the backing of the manager and the staff but also all the lads. Hopefully I’ve repaid their faith in me. The manager obviously felt I might pop up with a goal and I’ve been in just about every squad since he took over so it is nice to score such an especially important goal. Obviously each manager has their own ideas and beliefs on who they think should be here. There is tough competition in terms of other players in the squad and some who miss out. I just focus every time I come here and try my best. I try to impress in training.
“I have to be self-confident, most players at this level will be. You have to carry that with you through your career. If I was worried about what other people thought, if I fretted about criticism, I probably wouldn’t be standing here in front of you. You have to be single-minded and have a focus. I have that. I don’t think I particularly impressed the other night against Canada. That wasn’t one of my finest hours but I’m delighted to come back and prove to myself I can still do it.”
Martin may have proven to be Strachan’s final substitution as Scotland manager had he not ended Slovenia’s seven game unbeaten run. Instead, the manager can look ahead to England’s visit to Hampden in June knowing another home win will put his side back in contention for second place in Group F. Scotland are now two points behind Slovakia in second, who also travel to Hampden later this year.
“We’ll wait and see, those things are to be judged by other people,” said the striker on Strachan’s future. “But he has shown extreme faith in me since he took over the job. Hopefully I can continue to repay that faith with more goals. I can’t repeat some of the expletives he came out with when he got to me. It was all hugs and smiles, congratulations in the dressing room from the lads to me and from me to all the lads. I appreciate the work they all put in to get the victory and it was thoroughly deserved.
“It felt like a massive goal at the time with the celebrations and when we got in the dressing room. I understand how important it was for all of us but it wasn’t about me. Whoever got that goal, we just had to win at any cost. You could see from my celebrations that it was a massive moment. There was probably a bit of relief in there after how the campaign had been going but we can now take the positives out of it and move on with a bit of momentum into the England game.”