SHEFFIELD UNITED: The toughest job in football

Npower League Division One ''Sheffield United vs MK Dons ''Utd's Billy Clarke looks  to scores past MK's Keeper David Martin
Npower League Division One ''Sheffield United vs MK Dons ''Utd's Billy Clarke looks to scores past MK's Keeper David Martin
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MANY have tried. Most have failed.

But David Martin, the MK Dons goalkeeper, is confident Karl Robinson’s side can stop Sheffield United doing what they do best tomorrow -putting the ball in the back of the net.

United are the highest-scoring team in England, and only five teams have kept the South Yorkshire club at bay this term.

Martin knows he will have to be at his very best during what is expected to be a hotly contested League One fixture if that figure is to become six.

“I know they’ve scored a lot of goals but we’re more than capable of doing that too,” Martin told The Star.

“And we’ve also kept 17 clean sheets this season so, defensively, we know we’re strong.”

“Sheffield United play good football and we try and play good football.

“Obviously, from our perspective, it would have been nice to be a little bit closer to United and be going for second, but there’s still a lot to play for on our part.

“Personally, I think it’s good that you’ve got sides at the top of the division who try and pass the ball.

“It just goes to show that, despite what some people might think, you can do well by doing things the right way.”

Perceptions are not the only thing Martin is in the business of changing.

As a teenager, he also swapped positions too.

“When I was 13, I was playing centre-half at Spurs and I really didn’t like it,” he said.

“I told my dad that I wasn’t very happy and he asked me where I fancied playing.

“I told him in goal and he reckoned I was mad enough to do it so why not? Getting in there when the boots are flying is one of the things that actually attracted me to the position - being the last line of defence and all of that.”

Donning the gloves proved to be a wise decision.

A former England youth international, Martin signed for Liverpool soon after breaking into the MK Dons’ team before returning to Buckinghamshire following spells on loan with clubs including Leicester City and Derby County.

His performances have helped Robinson’s men climb to fourth in the table with only three matches remaining.

“Going somewhere like Liverpool really makes you ‘man up’,” he said “You are surrounded by top-quality players and so everything, every single minute of every single day, is just so focused.

“It’s hard to break into a side like that and sometimes you’ve got to move on to get football.

“But it’s a wonderful experience and education.”

Danny Wilson, who guided Martin through the early stages of his career after taking charge of MK Dons in 2004, is not the only familiar face Martin will encounter tomorrow.

Ryan Flynn, the United winger, is an old Anfield team mate having spent four years with Liverpool’s academy.

“I can remember Flynny there,” Martin, who is expected to play despite injury, continued.

“He was like me - he had to move elsewhere to get regular football - but you could always see he was a really talented player. Every time I’ve seen Ryan since he’s always looked a real threat and I don’t expect this one to be any different.”

United travel south second in the table and knowing that a win could see them return to the Championship at the first attempt. They have won nearly 62 per cent of their matches under Wilson’s stewardship, and his stock among supporters has never been higher.

A far cry from the days when some, angered by his previous associations with Sheffield Wednesday, gathered in Bramall Lane’s car-park to vent their spleen when the 52-year-old was officially unveiled as manager following United’s relegation last term.

Martin said: “Danny is a really good bloke and a real football man too. You don’t always get both.

“Like everyone else, I saw the reception he got when he was first appointed. But he’s always been ready to take on a challenge.

“He doesn’t shy away from one and I’m not surprised to see him turn it around because he’s a hard person to dislike.

“I owe Danny a lot because he gave me my chance to go to Liverpool.”

Wilson is unlikely to offer an comforting words tomorrow but Martin, a member of the MK Dons team beaten 2-1 at Bramall Lane earlier this term, is not short of advice.

His father is the former West Ham and England defender Alvin while brother Joe has also carved a career in the game.