The resurgence of Chris Martin at Derby County is really quite extraordinary. No one could have predicted his return to first team football at the end of last season.
Even still, most of the Derby supporters had forgotten that he was still a Ram in the first place. But here we are, and Derby’s former number nine turned number 19 is the Rams’ joint second-top scorer after just three appearances.
The 30-year-old went off the radar in 2016 and hadn’t, until now, been seriously considered in the Derby setup.
Back with a bang, though, the striker has utterly reinstated his title as a Derby County goalscorer.
Our latest FLW Six Pointer looks at the man finding his feet again at Pride Park…
Firstly, why are the Derby fans so connected to Martin?
“After a period of various loan spells, Martin joined Derby for the first time in 2013 on loan from Norwich. I don’t even think Derby supporters took to him straight away and we were all rather surprised when he signed on a permanent deal just months later.
“That first season, though, the Derby fans had found their new beloved number nine. He scored 52 goals in first three Championship seasons at Pride Park, 20 of which came in the 2013-14 play-off final season.
“He scored in both legs of the play-off semi-final that year against Brighton and Hove Albion to instantly write his name across the hearts of the Derby supporters.”
Where has he been for the past couple of years?
“I, like many other Derby supporters, had disregarded Martin as a Derby County player. Since 2016, he has had three loan spells at Fulham, Reading and, most recently, Hull City.
“He was part of the Fulham team that got all the way to the play-off finals in 2017, proving his quality once again. But then, he dropped off dramatically. After his successful loan spell, Derby – for what reason I still don’t know – decided to loan the striker back out.
“I think this damaged his confidence. He only managed to get three goals in two seasons at Reading and Hull and we all know he is much better than that.”
What made him return to the Derby front line?
“Hard work, determination and the change in manager. If Frank Lampard was still manager of Derby, I don’t think Martin would have ever played for Derby again.
“Phillip Cocu’s still trying to find his best team and that includes trying every player you have at your disposal. When some former first-team players are put in the under-23 squad, they can become lazy and despondent. Not Martin. He got his head down, worked hard and scored goals in the opening three games of the season.
“I don’t think there is anyone more deserving of leading the front line for Derby than Martin at the moment. He could easily be the captain of the club.”
What does he bring to the side?
“At the start of the season, Derby were under relentless pressure in defence because they simply couldn’t hold the ball up in attack. Martin has come in and done exactly that. His hold-up play has been tremendous.
“He is strong and knows how to frustrate defenders which is what Derby have missed. Oh, and he also brings goals to the side. He already has two of them and has recorded one assist.”
Who is he keeping out of the starting line-up?
“At the moment it is Jack Marriott, but I can’t help but feel like it should be Martyn Waghorn. Whilst Waghorn is the club’s top scorer, with four, he should be on at least 8. He has already missed two penalties and three one-on-ones for the club.
“I feel like Martin and Waghorn are too similar. If Derby could compliment Martin’s hold-up play with the runs of Marriott, they would be a much more dangerous side.”
Will he keep his place for the rest of the season?
“Derby have a lot of competition in that place. Cocu likes to play with just one striker and with Waghorn and Marriott there, Martin will have to remain at his best to stay in the side.
“At 30, I think he will be rested from time to time and I believe, particularly in certain away games when Derby look to counter, he will be better suited as an impact substitution as he proved to be at Elland Road earlier this season.”