Russell Martin's influence is invaluable to Norwich City manager Alex Neil
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The returning influence of captain Russell Martin has played an important part in Norwich City building their winning streak in the Championship.
That is the view of Canaries boss Alex Neil, who restored the 30-year-old Scotland international to the centre of his defence following a shock 3-0 loss at Birmingham.
Martin’s pre-season campaign was disrupted by a back problem and he had only played in the 6-1 thrashing of Coventry City at Carrow Road in the EFL Cup second round in the early stages of the campaign.
That all changed following the loss at St Andrew’s, with the defender playing the full match as Scotland won 5-1 in Malta during the international break before his return to City’s starting XI.
He has since played every minute of a three-match winning streak in the league, switching to full-back as injury cover for much of the home wins over Cardiff and Wigan, before partnering Timm Klose at the heart of defence at Nottingham Forest.
“I think one of Russell’s biggest strengths, and it’s quite unique nowadays, back in the day it used to be quite common, is that he affects other players,” Neil said of his skipper.
“The people around him, his right-back, his left centre-back, his guys in front of him, he’s got a real determination to be successful and to win.
“I think you need that in your group because it’s all fine and well nowadays as a player to take care of that wee square bit that you play in but if you can have an influence on people around you, that can be as much of a strength as anything else.
“Russell certainly does that for us so I think his presence is missed when he’s not in the team and like I’ve said to him, at times he doesn’t even need to play that well to make sure he influences the other guys next to him and that’s a strength that is difficult to come across.”
The former Peterborough United defender will draw level with Chris Woods and Peter Mendham on 267 City appearances if he plays against Burton at Carrow Road tomorrow, in joint 29th place.
Now in his eighth season with City, Martin is well on course to move into the top 25 of the Canaries’ all-time appearance makers this season.
Three promotions and two relegations during that time have brought plenty of highs and lows for Martin during his time in Norfolk.
However, he has earned the trust of his current manager, who values that organising influence highly.
“I think you always want a few lieutenants on the pitch that you know when the going gets tough a little bit you can turn to and you can rely on them to help on the pitch because there’s only so much you can do when the game starts from the side,” Neil said, ahead of City’s first-ever competitive fixture against Burton Albion tomorrow (3pm).
“You can talk to them beforehand but there may be an incident that happens that’s unpredictable or unforeseen and it’s up to them how they do on the pitch.
“Sometimes having strong characters or leaders on there really does make a difference because the rest of your team feed off that.”