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10) Nigel Martyn (1996-2003)
Country: England | DOB: 11/08/1966 | Position: Goalkeeper | Apps: 273 | Goals: 0
Nigel Martyn played over five hundred competitive games in English football, serving both Crystal Palace and Leeds United for seven seasons and Everton for three. He started his career as a midfield player until invited to play as a goalkeeper for his brother's works team when he was sixteen. He started at amateur side St Blazey before beginning his professional career with Bristol Rovers in 1987 after apparently having been "spotted" by Rovers' tea lady whilst she was on holiday.
He made one hundred and one League appearances at Bristol together with twenty three games in other competitions. He was transferred to Crystal Palace for a fee of £1 million in 1989, becoming the first goalkeeper to attract a million-pound transfer fee in English football. He remained at Palace for seven seasons, appearing three hundred and fifty times for the club, of which two hundred and seventy-two were in the League, and also included the 1990 FA Cup Final (where Palace were beaten by Manchester United after a replay, and the 1991 Zenith Data Systems Cup Final (where Palace beat Everton).
Strong and powerful at 6ft 2 inches, but possessing an ideal temperament as well as considerable presence, Martyn soon impressed Palace fans with his performances of distinction at the highest level. In 1990/91 he was a part of the Eagles' best ever defence and was on the verge of gaining full international recognition. After earning a series of B caps, he finally attained full international honours in Moscow on 29th April 1992, coming on as a substitute in a friendly against the newly formed Confederation of Independent States. He was an ever-present in Palace's First Division championship winning side of 1993-94 and he completed a run of one hundred consecutive league games against Leicester City at the end of October 1994.
In 1996, he signed with Leeds United, setting another record fee for a goalkeeper of £2.25m. He played as Leeds' first-choice goalkeeper for six seasons and his consistency was a large factor in their strong run in the Champions League. Voted into the Premier League Team of the Year in 2000 by his fellow professionals, Martyn remained second choice England keeper behind David Seaman but when he finally got his big chance against Romania in Euro 2000, he made some great saves. However, a combination of an uncertain defence and Nigel's occasional rush of blood played some part in the infamous 2-3 defeat.
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In 2000-01, he suffered a long absence due to a groin injury, and battled to keep his place ahead of Paul Robinson over the next couple of years. However, he returned with his shot-stopping as good as ever and played a major part in the latter half of Leeds's famous Champions League campaign. In 2002 his overall game was back to its best. He was picked by England in the World Cup squad, but the return to fitness of David Seaman left him on the side-lines again. After the World Cup he was reluctant to go on Leeds' tour of the Far East for the pre-season and when the squad returned he found that Paul Robinson had done enough to convince new manager Terry Venables that he was the one who would start the new season.
He remained on the bench for Leeds for the rest of his career there. In summer 2003, Peter Reid made it clear, that once Paul Robinson pledged his future to stay at Elland Road, he was going to continue as first choice. In the summer of 2003, Leeds were approached by Chelsea and Everton with offers to sign Martyn. Both clubs were offering the out-of-favour goalkeeper a substitute role. At Chelsea, he would understudy Carlo Cudicini and at Everton the first-choice was Richard Wright. Martyn chose to move to Everton, and six games into the season, an injury to Wright gave him his Everton debut. His performances for the first team during Wright's recovery were such that Martyn remained Everton's first-choice goalkeeper even after Wright returned from injury.
Leeds fans gave him a rousing welcome on his return to Elland Road for the vital clash on the night of Tuesday 14th April 2004. Deep in the relegation quagmire Leeds had to win to have any chance of survival. They were thwarted by one of the best displays of goalkeeping ever seen. In the end, the crowd pleaded with Martyn to “give us a goal”, as he pulled off one incredible save after another. Despite their disappointment the crowd duly acknowledged Martyn’s brilliant performance and applauded him from the field. Martyn was one of Everton's best performers in the 2004-05 season when they achieved their best ever finish in the EPL of fourth.
Many fans believed that Martyn almost single-handedly stopped them from slipping down the table after Thomas Gravesen’s departure. He produced some of the best form of his career, despite being thirty-eight years of age, to the delight of the Everton fans, with whom he remained a favourite. In his Everton Career he made one hundred appearances, comprising eighty-five starts and one substitute appearance in the League and fourteen in other competitions.
In 2005, Martyn was voted in Palace's Centenary XI. On 10th April 2006, he was voted as part ofLeeds United’s Greatest-Ever Team being the only player from the period after the Revie Era to be part of the team. On 8th June 2006, Martyn announced his retirement from football due to an ankle injury. David Moyes said that he would miss Martyn as he was his "greatest ever signing". It was also announced in September 2006 that Martyn could not take up goalkeeper coaching, as he wished to, due to the ankle injury he had sustained after a busy career.
Martyn was one of the few Cornishmen to play for England. He earned only twenty-three caps for his national side, spending the peak of his career as second-choice goalkeeper behind David Seaman.
For the full 100 players check out our 100 Greatest Ever Leeds Players...