Born Tranent; October 20, 1940.
Neil Martin's is not the most well known or glamorous name associated with English football but a glance at his career statistics prove that he was a solid, dependable servant who gave value for money wherever he went during his career.
Martin began his career north of the border in his native Scotland before moving to England in his mid twenties. He brought with him a reputation as a prolific goalscorer which he justified in the more competitive English league without ever really setting the world on fire.
Martin started his career with lowly Alloa Athletic and while his obvious attributes from the start were his strength and power in the air he quickly showed that he had the goalscoring knack that would lift him above the standard of most battering ram centre forwards.
In 1960-61 Neil Martin managed 25 goals in league and cup for Alloa and helped the club to the quarter finals of the Scottish FA Cup, as far as the club have ever been, where they lost 4-0 to Dunfermline Athletic, the eventual winners of the competition.
Such goalscoring alerted other clubs and at the end of that season Martin was on his way to Queen of the South for the princely sum of £2,000, signed by the ex Blackpool goalkeeper George Farm.
Martin would form an outstanding partnership with the fast, tricky Ernie Hannigan at Palmerston Park, a combination that would eventually be re-united south of the border at Coventry City. Martin upped his tally to 30 league and cup goals in 1961-62 as Queen of the South won promotion to the Scottish first division.
The tall, combative striker helped his team stay in the top flight the following season before being snapped up by Hibernian for £7,500. It was at Easter Road that Martin really began to attract attention.
Hibernian were actually struggling to come out of a slump when Neil Martin joined them but their new centre forward immediately began providing a steady flow of goals and soon the club was to receive an even bigger boost.
In the summer of 1964 the club appointed Jock Stein as manager and the improvement on the pitch was immediate. Martin hit 29 goals in league and cup as Hibs finished 4th in the table and reached the semi finals of the Scottish Cup.
The first division table that season makes interesting reading. Kilmarnock, Hearts and Dunfermline were the teams finishing above Hibs while Clyde also managed to finish ahead of Celtic who trailed in 7th. In the cup Hibs famously knocked out Rangers before falling to Dunfermline in the semis.
In what were heady times for the club Hibs also invited Real Madrid to Easter Road for a friendly and defeated their team of superstars 2-0.
By this time Martin was knocking on the door of the full Scotland team having already represented them at Under 23 level and played for the Scottish League on a couple of occassions, scoring in a 2-2 draw against the Football League at Roker Park.
Scotland were desperate to qualify for the upcoming World Cup finals to be held in England but had been handed a tough qualifying group. At the end of the 1965 season the Scots headed into Europe to play two vital qualifying matches and Neil Martin was one of the party.
The first game was in Poland and Martin was handed his international debut alongside Denis Law who scored the goal as Scotland earned a creditable 1-1 draw. This partnership was retained for the other game and Scotland ran out 2-1 winners in Finland.
When the return game with Poland was played in October Martin was overlooked as Alan Gilzean returned to partner Law and it was this game that really cost the Scots dear in their quest for qualification. The Poles ran out 2-1 winners at Hampden which left Scotland basically needing to beat Italy home and away to go through.
Martin was back in for the game at Hampden Park in which he partnered Gilzean and a goal from John Greig kept the dream alive but when the return was played in Naples a month later Martin didn't figure even though Law and Gilzean were both also absent. A strange looking side in which Jim Forrest and John Hughes led the line went down to a comprehensive 3-0 defeat and the Scots would have to stay at home and suffer during the following summer.
By the time Martin won his third, and final, cap against the Italians he had left Hibernian and moved north of the border. He had stayed at Easter Road long enough to take part in their Fairs Cup campaign which brought them a 1st round exit against Valencia. Hibs won the first leg 2-0 but lost by the same scoreline in Spain before losing a replay 3-0.
The club asking Martin to sign on the dotted line were Sunderland, struggling in the first division and desperate to rekindle former glories. They were particularly interested in Scottish talent at the time having already captured the mercurial Jim Baxter from Rangers to swell their ranks of Scotsmen.
By the time Neil Martin left Hibs he had scored 53 goals in 65 league games and managed a couple of memorable performances against his former clubs. He hit four of the goals as Hibs walloped Alloa 11-2 in a League Cup tie and also put four past Queen of the South in a first division game. No wonder Hibs were selling him to a team they were unlikely to ever play against.
This time it took £45,000 to capture Martin's signature and the new man repaid the fee by scoring steadily if not spectacularly. As well as goals Martin offered total commitment and was an adept targetman, especially in the air.
He was the type of player the fans would invariably cheer as they knew they could rely on him to stand up and be counted even if he wasn't having the best of days. At a time when every team had a hatchet man or three Martin could be relied upon to get in there and give as much as he got against the most feared men in football.
Sunderland stayed clear of relegation during Martin's time at the club but achieved nothing more. The centre forward managed 38 goals in his 86 league games for the club, a more than respectable tally, but his effectiveness was diminished by the clubs' inability to find him a suitable partner.
Nick Sharkey was perhaps his best ally but left early on in the 1966-67 season. His place was taken by the young John O'Hare who was a willing runner but never a prolific goalscorer.
Martin would have been best suited playing alongside a genuine goalscorer, a poacher who could feed off his flicks and benefit from his ability to mix it with the hulking centre halves that populated the first division. Jimmy Greaves was the Rolls Royce of this type of player but if Sunderland had paired someone like Kevin Hector or Pop Robson with Martin then they might have been in business. As it was Martin continued to provide the team with the bulk of their goals before being moved on early in 1968.
The closest Neil Martin or Sunderland came to any real glory during his stay at the club was in 1967 when they reached the FA Cup 5th round and became embroiled in a titanic struggle with Leeds United.
Martin had Sunderland ahead in the first game at Roker Park but Leeds levelled to take the game back to Elland Road and another draw there made a second replay necessary which was held at Hull's Boothferry Park.
This game has become infamous as one of the supposed occasions of Don Revie bribing the referee. With the game locked at 1-1 and time running out the instruction apparently went out from the Leeds bench for the next man to get near the Sunderland box to go down. In the next attack Jimmy Greenhoff went down in extravagant fashion, landing just about inside the area, and sure enough Leeds had a spot kick from which they won the tie.
When Neil Martin moved again it was to take part in another relegation scrap. Coventry City were struggling to survive having been promoted to Division One for the first time in their history the year before.
Martin came in to replace the clubs' top scorer, Bobby Gould, who had just been sold to Arsenal and managed to equal his predecessors' total of eight goals by the end of the season, making them joint top scorers for the campaign, as Coventry avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth.
Sunderland, by the way, could look back at the signing of Martin as very good business indeed. Not only had his goalscoring record, just shy of a goal every other game, kept them in Division One for three seasons they had doubled their money on him when selling him to Coventry for £90,000.
The goals would come less frequently at Highfield Road but the team improved steadily and Martin formed a couple of effective partnerships with smaller, more mobile strikers. Ernie Hunt benefitted from the robust Martin who then went on to form a more productive spearhead with John O'Rourke who joined the club from Ipswich Town.
The club had flirted seriously with relegation again in 1968-69 but the following season, with Martin and O'Rourke joining forces, the club improved dramatically to end the season 6th and claim a place in Europe.
Behind this forward line the club was being well served by young midfield finds Willie Carr and Dennis Mortimer and the club looked to be capable of progressing further and perhaps challenging for honours.
Perhaps this consideration led to the club allowing Martin to leave. Having played his part in the clubs' European campaign, scoring in a heavy aggregate win over Trakia Plovdiv and then scoring in a heavy aggregate defeat to Bayern Munich, the 30 year old forward was transferred to Nottingham Forest who were involved in, you've guessed it, a relegation battle at the foot of the first division.
Although Martin only contributed one goal to the cause his presence and experience helped the club steer away from the relegation zone.
Forest continued to struggle, however. Niggling injuries began to effect Martin while the clubs' stars, most notably Ian Storey-Moore and Peter Cormack, departed for pastures new.
Hardly anyone was surprised when the club did drop into the second division at the end of the 1971-72 season and they would not manage a return to the top flight while Neil Martin was with them.
The 1972-73 season was frustrating for both club and player as Forest were unable to mount any kind of promotion challenge and Martin had to sit out the first three months of the season after being injured in a pre-season friendly against Kaiserslautern.
Despite scoring on his return in a 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday this was a season to forget but the following year promised better. Martin stayed fit and although he struggled to find the net himself he did forge a fine partnership with Duncan McKenzie who finally fulfilled his obvious potential and became the second division's top scorer with 26 goals.
The FA Cup also brought excitement. Martin got two goals as Bristol Rovers were brushed aside in the 3rd round and then played his part in a superb 4-1 thrashing of Manchester City. Victory over Portsmouth took Forest into the 6th round and an away tie at Newcastle.
Forest looked to be cruising into the semi finals as they surged into a 3-1 lead at St James, especially as Newcastle had also had a man sent off. Then came a pitch invasion by the Geordie supporters and when the game finally restarted Newcastle came back to win 4-3.
The FA declared this result void and ordered a replay at a neutral venue. The clubs travelled to Goodison Park for a goalless draw but when they met again on Merseyside the Geordies won by the only goal.
Neil Martin's last realistic chance of glory had passed him by.
The following season, 1974-75, would be Martin's last at Forest but it did allow him to create a couple of pieces of history. He began the season in good goalscoring form and when he hit the first of his two goals in a 3-2 win at Sheffield Wednesday in late September he had become the first player to score 100 league goals both north and south of the border.
Martin's other momentous feat was scoring the only goal in the FA Cup 3rd round replay at Tottenham. This might not seem overly significant at first glance but the game goes down in history as Brian Clough's first in charge at the club.
It was not long before Clough made it clear that Martin was surplus to requirements, however. The striker scored against Fulham in the 4th round of the cup as well but that game ended up going to three replays and when Forest were finally knocked out Clough was able to start planning for the following season.
One of Clough's first signings was John O'Hare and the man who Martin had kept out of the Sunderland team when he was a youngster was now the signing that signalled the end of the road for him at Forest.
Now in his mid 30's Martin moved to the south coast and third division Brighton. He scored on his debut against Rotherham and helped himself to two more in a high scoring draw at his happy stomping ground, Hillsborough.
Despite starting well at the Goldstone Ground the Seagulls then signed Sammy Morgan and Neil Martin became a peripheral figure. In March he swapped one promotion chasing side for another by moving to Crystal Palace but could only manage a solitary goal, in a draw against Halifax, as the Eagles' promotion challenge faded completely.
Coincidentally Brighton also faltered and ended up missing out as well as Millwall came storming through to claim the third promotion place.
This was the end of Neil Martin's playing days although he did remain in the game in a coaching capacity and was named as joint manager with Alan Buckley at Walsall for a season in the early 1980's.
His playing career might have been one of little tangible achievement but it was undoubtedly one of unstinting bravery, commitment and consistent goalscoring.
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