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May 10, 2014

Martin's damning verdict reveals so much

It came as no great surprise that Russell Martin was the first to front up once the initial rawness subsided around Norwich City’s imminent Premier League relegation, which will be confirmed on Sunday barring a miracle in which they beat Arsenal and West Brom lose to Stoke ... with a 17-goal swing also required!

Martin walked into a room full of waiting media at the club’s Colney training base on Friday afternoon with the air of a condemned man.

There was emotion and disappointment etched on his features but, also, a steely resolve to play a part in the fight back; for that is all Norwich must cling to now ahead of their Premier League farewell on Sunday against FA Cup finalists Arsenal at Carrow Road.

Martin talked about the burden of realising the implications for those who do not share the limelight or the glory. People who, amid the accusations and recriminations, may lose their jobs as a result of the fallout from a failed campaign. Back office staff, waitresses and waiters, they are people who never make the headlines but are the glue that binds community clubs like Norwich. Supporters will share the misery but football is their recreation, not their livelihood.

- PickCenter: Norwich vs. Arsenal "Insider"

Martin also talked about the "massive" reductions in salary and bonuses for Norwich’s squad that the drop will bring. Beyond the confines of the dressing room such sound bites may garner little sympathy, given the efforts and the culpability of the under-performing players. But they were delivered with honesty to underline there are consequences for everyone associated with a relegated football club.

The Scottish international knows there will be some of his teammates who simply do not fancy the cut and thrust of the Football League; a gruelling marathon where City and Fulham and Cardiff will be seen as prized scalps.

For those who emerge from the wreckage with their reputations intact, the coming weeks may see former Premier League rivals offer them an instant route back to the top flight. You can be equally sure Leicester and Burnley and whoever escapes via the Championship playoffs will take a keen interest in those who might aid their own causes.

But all that is for the future. Martin’s most revealing moments during a lengthy inquisition came in his reflections on what went wrong. Much has been made of the managerial upheaval that jettisoned Chris Hughton and replaced him with the inexperienced Neil Adams for the run-in, yet Martin opted to look much deeper and spoke of lost values and a complacency within the squad.

One of the survivors of the long march from League One, he felt Norwich had become a soft touch; easy to play against. Brittle on the road and weak in the defining points of a campaign that was designed to offer more than the annual struggle for survival.

Martin used one key word: identity. City knew what they stood for when they were fighting against the odds to first break the Premier League cartel and then become a staple member. In the search for evolution they regressed. To go forward now they must first go back to rediscover those key beliefs that propelled them on a remarkable journey.