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Martin proud after play-off triumph

Published 26/05/2015

Russell Martin held the trophy aloft after Norwich claimed their play-off final win at Wembley
Russell Martin held the trophy aloft after Norwich claimed their play-off final win at Wembley

Norwich captain Russell Martin said winning promotion to the Barclays Premier League through the play-offs was the "proudest moment" of his career after his side defeated Middlesbrough at Wembley on Monday.

Goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond put the Canaries 2-0 up inside 15 minutes as Norwich returned to the top flight a year after relegation.

Martin told Norwich TV: "It feels amazing to have it (the trophy). The way we've done it is the ultimate and this tops everything for me at this football club since I've been here.

"To lead a team out at Wembley and then to lead them up the steps to pick up the trophy, it's the proudest moment of my career and I don't think that will be topped.

"It's special to go up the steps at Wembley, it's the stuff you dream of and fortunately I've been able to do that as captain.

"You dream about stuff like that as a kid and just talking about it makes you feel a bit emotional seeing the yellow and green out there as you go up the steps - but to lift the trophy at Wembley, that was a cup final out there.

"It's an emotional day. I think after last year it is a bit of redemption. We've had our naysayers and our doom mongers this year but we've got through all that as a team, a squad - the staff as well.

"I think the football club this year has been more together than ever to prove people wrong and get back to where we belong and thankfully we've done that today."

Norwich boss Alex Neil, in charge of Scottish side Hamilton Academical before his appointment in January, told Sky Sports: "I believed we would do it, but it's one thing believing it and another thing doing it.

"Big players arrive on the big stage and you saw that in the first 20 minutes - we were unbelievable. We worked so hard to get here. The worst thing you can do is walk off having been scared."

While Canaries winger Redmond, who scored the second goal, was delighted with the team ethic within the side, he knows there is a lot of work to do over the summer.

The 21-year-old told BBC Radio 5 live: "It was about a team (effort). The boys did it. The passage of play before my goal was a team effort.

"I'm extremely proud of the boys. We'll have a good summer and we'll get back to work."

He also tweeted: "Still hasn't sunk in what we achieved yesterday afternoon. Time for a little break before meeting up."

Team-mate and fellow scorer Jerome wrote on his Twitter account: "Amazing day all round such a special moment to win promotion at wembley #ncfc #premierleague proud day for everyone associated with the club."

Former Norwich striker Iwan Roberts won promotion with the Carrow Road outfit at the end of his seven-year spell in 2004 for the club's second stint in the Premier League.

He was pleased to see they were successful again and believes the late arrival of the Boro team coach to Wembley handed the winners a "big advantage".

He told BBC Radio 5 live: "Their (Norwich's) tactics were spot on. They flew out, got the two early goals and the result was never in doubt because Boro never ever looked like scoring.

"I'm delighted for (major shareholders) Michael (Wynn-Jones) and Delia (Smith). They put their heart and soul into Norwich City."

On Middlesbrough's late arrival just 60 minutes before kick-off, the 46-year-old Welshman added: "I think they've got to have a long hard look at themselves because their coach got there an hour before kick-off.

"For a big game like that as a player that would absolutely drive you mad.

"You want to be there at least an hour and a half (early). You don't get time to prepare, you don't get time go out and have a look at the surroundings.

"It must have been a mad rush for them. To get out, get warmed up, get back in and get themselves ready for the game, and I think it gave Norwich a big advantage."

Almost 12 months ago to the day, it was Canaries boss Neil who masterminded Hamilton's promotion to the Scottish Premiership, and - following his appointment in January - the unheralded Scotsman has presided over a remarkable run which took the Norfolk club back into the top six and culminated in Monday's play-off final triumph.

Regarding Neil's success at the club Roberts added: "I think he's done an unbelievable job and many people, I think, raised eyebrows when he was given the job.

"All credit to (chief executive) David McNally and the football club, they did their homework and they spoke to Alex Neil and probably took a bit of a gamble bringing him down but hasn't it paid off?

"A 68 per cent win rate. I think the hard work starts now - staying in the Premier League, I look at the odds and they're the second favourites for relegation."

Messages of congratulations poured in for Neil's play-off champions on Twitter following the news of their promotion for their fourth spell in the Premier League.

Gary Lineker wrote on his account: "Congratulations to Norwich City. You just couldn't stay away, could you."

BBC Sport tweeted a photograph of Delia Smith and Michael Wynn-Jones with the trophy on the Wembley turf and the words "Let's be 'avin you!"

Presenter Chris Kamara, who spent a spell on loan at Middlesbrough during his playing days, commented: "Norwich played superb today & thoroughly deserved to win."

Comedian and Norwich fan Stephen Fry was delighted, saying: "We're in the premiership!!! And we DESERVE to be, I reckon! Well done Alex Neil and all the players. Ridiculously happy!!!"

Former Wales striker John Hartson, who spent a month on loan at Carrow Road in October 2007 shortly before he hung up his boots, wrote on Twitter: "Must say how well Alex Neil has done.. Surprised everyone when he got the Norwich post but he's been outstanding. Humble and dignified man."

Former Arsenal defender Lee Dixon said: "Huge effort from everyone. Special credit to the board. Fans happy now!..."

More reaction came in on Twitter as Philip Neville wrote: "Congratulations Norwich - along with Bournemouth long drives next season!!!"

Dion Dublin, who began his playing career in the Norwich academy and finished it with a two-year spell at the club in 2008, said: "Premier League Club Premier League Season Premier League Supporters #CongratulationsNCFC."

Former Scotland goalkeeper Bryan Gunn, who made 390 league appearances for the club in a 12-year spell and was manager in 2009 tweeted: "What a day #ncfc What a seat! #OTBC."

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