Sometimes, there’s a man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there.The Stranger – The Big Lebowski
ISN’T this why we love West Ham? That frustrating, maddening, consistently awful team that just once in every while will bring us fleeting moments of the purest, most unadulterated joy imaginable.
Saturday’s win over Chelsea contained just such an instant, as emotionally spent, 33-year-old debutant goalkeeper David Martin slumped at the final whistle before climving to the press box and tearfully embracing his father, club legend Alvin.
The Hammers had ended a dismal run of just two points from the last 21 to beat cross-town rivals Chelsea on their manor and dispel, for a few heady hours at least, all the concerns over how the club is run.
This blog is going to take time out from tactics, club gossip, intra-fan animosities and all the rest to just enjoy the moment.
“One David Martin, there’s only ONE David Martin!”
Let’s be honest, the keeper wasn’t too severely tested by a toothless Chelsea side stripped of their main attacking threat by an injury to Tammy Abraham. He did spill a couple of fairly routine catches, as well as allowing a seemingly harmless cross to rebound to safety from his near post.
Nobody cared. Every catch, every kick was cheered to the rafters by boisterous Hammers supporters relieved of the spectacle of the incompetent Roberto flapping around. At least if Martin were to be a useless goalkeeper he was OUR useless goalkeeper.
The fact is when when it came to the crunch Martin performed well. And at the final whistle the player slumped to the ground drained, having helped his boyhood team to three points courtesy of Aaron Creswell’s tidy finish. After being dragged to his feet by grateful team-mates came the trek up the terrace to a father who had made 596 Hammers appearances over a 21-season career.
Both men were in tears. Who wouldn’t be – there wasn’t a dry eye in this household!
Just one sour thought – the most recent time West Ham won at Stamford Bridge, a 3-2 victory in September 2002, the team went on to be relegated from the Premier League. But then, that side didn’t possess David Martin, a man of impeccable Hammers heritage and massive good character.
The story began midway through West Ham’s best ever league season of 1985-86. Four days after the Hammers had travelled back from a 3-1 league defeat to eventual champions Liverpool, centre-back and Bootle-born Alvin Martin welcomed into the world his first child, son David. Born in Romford on the 22nd of January the lad grew up showing all the promise of his father as a defender. Signed by Tottenham on schoolboy terms the player converted to a keeper and after a spell with Wimbledon made the reverse journey to his father by signing for Liverpool. Unfortunately, at 6ft 1in Martin was short for a contemporary goalie and never made a first team appearance. Following a series of loans Martin returned to Wimbledon – by now Milton Keynes Dons – and settled for seven years where he built a reputation as a solid if unspectacular player. Then followed a move to Millwall where an uncharacteristic howler during a cup match against Brighton effectively ended his Lions career. Picked up by West Ham on a free as a “training keeper” to work with first choice Lukasz Fabianski and understudy Roberto Jimenez, Martin’s chances of gaining the Premier League appearance he had always craved appeared as remote as ever. That was until the Polish stopper suffered a torn thigh muscle taking a goal kick against Bournemouth. Roberto proved to be a hopeless deputy, conceding 14 goals in just seven starts. Numerous unforced errors led to a slump in form and confidence of the entire team before manager Manuel Pellegrini, under pressure for his job, picked Martin for the derby game at Stamford Bridge.