Martyn has twice been transferred as Britain’s most expensive goalkeeper — to Crystal Palace from Bristol Rovers for £1 million in 1989, and from Palace to Leeds for £2.25 million in 1996 — and in terms of security, for Leeds he has been priceless. Martyn’s arrival in 1996 marked a major turning point.
With Howard Wilkinson’s defence still in a state of flux, rebuilding after the 1992 Championship, the Cornishman brought an assured sense of calm that inspired the back four and relieved the crowds.
In his first season he kept 20 Premiership clean sheets. Admittedly he was well protected by George Graham’s overly-cautious tactics, but Martyn’s reliability continued as David O’Leary’s full-backs became more adventurous.
His towering six foot one frame earned him the fans’ nickname “Big Nige” and his stature is matched by his confidence and commanding presence.
Leeds fans soon hailed him “England’s Number 1”, but he was unlucky that his form coincided with the terms of England managers who, while recognising he was the equal of Arsenal’s David Seaman, opted for the experience of the incumbent rather than the promise of his deputy. He has, therefore, been restricted to 23 caps.
At the start of 2002/03, having given most of his summer to England’s World Cup campaign (where he played in the preliminaries but not the finals), he opted for time with his family. New manager Terry Venables took the opportunity to give Paul Robinson the first-team slot that Martyn had held uninterrupted except by injury for six seasons.
Robinson impressed and Martyn had to face life as backup to the team-mate who had long been his understudy.
Financial pressures led to Martyn’s sale in the summer of 2003, the club eager to ease the wage bill sold their former No.1 to Everton for a nominal fee – a slightly sad ending for the fan’s favourite who never had the opportunity to bow out properly.