05 Oct Martin hoping to start
Chris Martin felt he was “fortunate” to start Scotland’s opening World Cup qualifier – but the show of faith and his subsequent goal has helped the striker feel he belongs in the national team.
Martin was surprisingly handed the lone striker role in Malta ahead of Steven Fletcher after Leigh Griffiths pulled out through injury.
The 27-year-old responded with a goal in the 5-1 victory in what was only his third start in nine international appearances.
Now he feels better about his place in Gordon Strachan’s squad ahead of the qualifying double header against Lithuania and Slovakia.
“I think I was perhaps a little bit fortunate to start the last game,” said Martin, who joined Fulham on loan from Derby days before the Malta clash.
“I felt like I did okay, I managed to score and won the penalty for us somehow. We will have to wait and see what the manager thinks but hopefully I have done enough.”
When asked why he felt fortunate to start, Martin said: “I wasn’t expecting it really. There were other people who were in line who were just as deserving to start.
“Leigh Griffiths was unfortunate with the injury he had, especially with the start to the season he has had and how he played last season.
“I didn’t totally expect it to happen so that’s why I felt I was a little bit fortunate.
“That was the next step in my international career. I had been on the periphery a little bit in terms of the amount of games I had played. That was the next step and hopefully I can build on that now.”
When asked to sum up his contribution to Scotland after hitting two goals in nine appearances, Martin said: ” I think I’ve done okay, there is still more to come from myself.
“I’ve had a few opportunities now, done okay in some and not so well in others. It’s trying to find that consistency of performance.”
Strachan remains a major fan of the forward’s all-round game, consistently selecting him ahead of the likes of Ross McCormack and Jordan Rhodes, and the former Norwich and Luton player does feel he has grown into the international scene.
“Just the familiarity of it and playing more often, getting more minutes on the pitch, trying to feel like you belong here really,” he added.
“That’s the challenge when you first come into the squad, particularly when you are not always playing straight away.
“I feel comfortable here now and hopefully that’s going to show in performances.”
Martin’s goal in Malta – when he converted Matt Ritchie’s low cross – was a welcome boost amid a lean spell at club level.
The target man enjoyed a largely prolific three years at Pride Park, hitting 61 goals, but they dried up towards the end of last term and he has now gone 20 domestic matches without finding the net.
“Of course, as a striker it’s always a bit of a concern,” he said. “But I don’t really think too much about that.
“This can probably be a little bit of a release for me, coming away on international duty from the pressures of club level and trying to perform here.
“It’s a different set-up, a different vibe and a different feeling, so hopefully I can use this as a bit of a catalyst for me and I can take it back to club level.”