Sunday, 24 February 2008

The Boy From Bootle

In the absence of any real news, here is a small piece on Alvin Martin taken from the latest issue of Hammers News...

Born in Bootle, on Merseyside, in July 1958, Alvin Martin signed for West Ham after only being offered a part-time apprenticeship with his local club Everton. The 15 year-old defender took the brave decision to move to London when he was offered terms by West Ham. The decision paid almost immediate dividends, as Alvin was a part of the side which reached the final of the FA Youth Cup in 1975. His sterling performances led to him being offered a professional deal the following year. Despite showing great promise in his early appearances, Martin could do little but look on as the team were relegated to the Second Division in 1978.

However, in many ways, this unfortunate situation would be the making of young Alvin. He soon became a regular in the side the following season, where he would benefit greatly from the experience and guidance of his usual central defensive partner, Billy Bonds. It would not be long before martin collected his only piece of silverware in a Hammers shirt, when he played a huge role in West Ham's infamous FA Cup win over Arsenal in 1980. The following season West Ham romp to the Second Division title and also provided yet another Wembley cup final appearance for our young defender. Although the Hammers lost in the League Cup showpiece against Liverpool, it was Alvin Martin's header which was handled on the line, thus allowing Ray Stewart's dramatic penalty equaliser.

The following season, Alvin had his first taste of European football as the Hammers took part in the European Cup-Winners' Cup. Martin shone on the European stage and this eventually led to international recognition. Ron Greenwood was manager of the national team by now and the man who had signed Alvin as a youngster showed no hesitation in throwing him in truly at the deep end, as the Hammers centre-half made his international debut against Brazil! Despite a defeat, Martin emerged with great credit from a game which saw him come up against, amongst others, Brazilian legend Zico. This led to a total of 19 international caps for the composed defender, including an appearance at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, although he had unfortunately missed the 1982 tournament through injury.

By this time, Martin had become one of the finest defenders in the country and upon the initial retirement of Billy Bonds, Alvin forged another exceptional partnership with Tony Gale. There have been few instances in English football in which two central defenders who are so accomplished on the ball have been paired together, yet Gale and Martin provided the platform for the hammers' most successful season ever in 1985/86. having pushed Liverpool and Everton all the way in the race for the title, West Ham eventually had to settle for third spot. Nevertheless, it was the club's highest ever finish in England's top flight and the season also saw Alvin record the strange first of scoring a hat-trick, against three different goalkeepers! It came in an 8-1 demolition of Newcastle, whose goalkeeper Martin Thomas picked up an injury, before being replaced by Chris Hedworth and then Peter Beardsley, with Alvin scoring against all three in the same game.

The following season however, injuries began to take their toll and a number of knocks restricted the tall defender's appearances over the coming seasons. However, every time it seemed as though he might have played his last game for the club, Martin would somehow find the determination to battle back and prove the doubters wrong. this was most evident when he had suffered a 10 month lay-off through injury, only to come back and help the Hammer' assault on the premiership in 1993/94. he had done enough to earn himself yet another top flight contract, at the age of 36.

Contrary to the realms of possibility, Alvin continued his career for another two seasons, despite being constantly dogged by injury. He eventually made his last appearance in an emotional game at his beloved Upton Park against Sheffield Wednesday, on the final day of the 1995/96 season, at the age of 38. It is unlikely any player in the modern era will ever replicate the commitment and service Alvin Martin showed to the club in 19 years of service. Despite his numerous injury problems, when the Scouse legend eventually left West Ham, he had made 586 appearances for the club, which meant that Alvin Martin would forever be remembered as an undoubted Hammers Hero.

1 comment:

McTavish said...

Nice read. I don't suppose you happen to know how Alvin got his nickname 'Stretch' do you? I have a theory but it's not based on much.


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