Thursday, March 17, 2011

Forgotten Scotland Players: Brian Martin

While I’d find it hard to deny that I have my share of strange habits and odd quirks, it is not the norm for me to have images of bald men racing through my mind.

So I find it hard to explain why I found myself thinking about Brian Martin the other day.

But I did. And it’s inspired what might be an occasional series on ‘Forgotten Scotland Players.’

Given this is Scotland, and especially given the selection scatter gun in play during the Vogts' years, this could be a series as long running as The Archers.

But let’s start with Brian.

His career began in 1980 with Albion Rovers and quickly rocketed down a cul-de-sac. A stint at Stenhousemuir followed but it wasn’t until 1985 that he landed a move to Falkirk, switching to Hamilton in 1987 and moving on to St Mirren less than a year later.

At Love Street he established himself in the first team and caught the eye of Motherwell manager Tommy McLean.

By November 1991 McLean could claim to be a Scottish Cup winning manager. But his cup heroes were slipping away from the club and his team were heading nowhere fast, except perhaps the First Division.

He saw something he needed in Martin and duly signed him for £175,000, the only transfer fee of note that Brian ever attracted in his career.

And, at Motherwell, Martin blossomed. Motherwell survived in his first year and he was part of the team that finished third in the league under McLean and second when Alex McLeish took over as manager. Suddenly our hero was hobnobbing with Borussia Dortmund in European competition.

By 1995 the national boss, Craig Brown, was taking notice of Martin’s progress. Never much concerned with youth, Brown plucked the then 32 year old centre half from Fir Park and named in his squad for the 1995 Kirin Cup.

And so it was that on 21 May 1995, some 15 years after he took his bow with Albion Rovers, Brian Martin lined up for Scotland against Japan in Hiroshima.

The starting eleven for a goalless draw was:

Jim Leighton, Brian Martin, Colin Calderwood, Alan McLaren, Craig Burley, Paul Lambert, Billy McKinlay, Scott Gemmill, Rab McKinnon, John Spence and Darren Jackson

Three days later Scotland played Ecuador in Toyama. Brown had rung the changes but Martin stayed in the team for a 2-1 win:

Jim Leighton, Alan McLaren, Brian Martin, Colin Calderwood, Derek Whyte, Paul Bernard, Craig Burley, Billy McKinlay, Scott Gemmill, Darran Jackson and John Robertson.

Names to conjure with there. Not least the four centre halves. Stevie Crawford came off the bench to join Robertson on the score sheet.

Two games, no defeats and only one goal conceded. For a Scottish team that relied heavily on its fortitude in defence Martin’s introduction had been a success.

But his presence owed much to the absence of regulars on that trip and he soon fell out of the reckoning. By 1996 and the European Championships in England, Martin was in the crowd watching Scotland play England at Wembley.

By 1998 he was back in the lower leagues with Stirling Albion and then Partick Thistle. By the turn of the millennium he had retired from professional football but was still turning out in the juniors.

An old fashioned end to an old fashioned career.

Quite a modern claim to fame though. Along with Paul Bernard (who could feature here in the future) he made his only two appearances for Scotland in Japan.

Forgotten Scotland Players Number 1: Brian Martin, Motherwell, 2 Caps