Martin moves to Ipswich
Posted by nickogs20 on July 8, 2009
Ipswich manager and United legend Roy Keane has returned to his old stomping ground to take Lee Martin to Portman Road on a permanent deal, with the winger leaving Old Trafford after 5 and a half years at the club.
The fee is, as ever these days, undisclosed, but Keane is thought to have paid somewhere in the region of £1.5m for the Taunton-born winger, who has signed a contract that will keep him with the Tractor Boys until at least 2013. The arrival of Zoran Tošić, Gabriel Obertan and Antonio Valencia, with Adem Ljajić to come in January, has left the wing positions looking well stocked at OT and the prospect of first team opportunities for Martin looking slim, even after his impressive displays for the reserves last season in a more central role. With that in mind, both player and club seem to have decided the time was right for a move.
Lee joined the club as a raw 16 year-old in December 2003 having impressed on trial, making the move from Wimbledon in a deal that netted the then London-based Dons a quarter of a million pounds upfront, with the promise of more to come if the player went on to establish himself at United. The remainder of that 2003/04 season was hampered somewhat by injury, but ended in success as he netted during the penalty shootout that won the Reds the Blue Stars tournament.
The following campaign saw a swift promotion to the reserves on a regular basis, with particular highlights coming in the form of a hattrick in a 5-0 thrashing of Bolton, and a goal in the final as the Blue Stars was retained. 05/06 saw further progression, more impressive reserve displays bearing fruit in the form of places on the bench for two games in United’s ill-fated Champions League group stage before the real prize of an Old Trafford debut as Barnet were put to the sword by a youthful Reds XI.
Sir Alex Ferguson decided Lee’s development would be best served at that point by a spell out on loan, and so the Somerset youngster moved to Belgium in January 2006 to spend the rest of the season with United’s affiliate club Royal Antwerp. Things couldn’t have gone much better at Bosuilstadion for Lee, as evidenced by five fan-voted Man of the Match awards and, ultimately, the Supporters’ Player of the Year award after just half a season with the Great Old.
That loan stint in Antwerp would prove to be the first of many for Martin, his career at this point entering into a cycle whereby he would start each season impressing in pre-season with the first team before embarking on loan spells that would start brightly before ending somewhat disappointingly, often due to woeful luck with injury. A great display against Celtic in pre-season saw him start 06/07 at their impressed city rivals Rangers, while Championship side Stoke City were his temporary employer for the second half of the campaign.
The following term saw Lee initially kept at Old Trafford after impressing on tour in Asia, and he made his second first-team appearance against Coventry City in the league cup, but defeat that night and an exit from the competition prompted another loan, this time to Plymouth Argyle. Perhaps his most consistently impressive spell, Martin was nevertheless recalled to Manchester in the January window, only to be farmed out again days later to Sheffield United. Lee’s spell at Bramall Lane however was cut short by a knee ligament injury that ruled him out of the last two months of the campaign.
08/09 looked to be make or break for Lee, with just two years remaining on his contract and United unlikely to let him enter the final twelve months and potentially leave for a minimal fee. He again impressed on pre-season, this time in South Africa, and once again started his now obligatory loan stint brightly, scoring a screamer on his home league debut for Nottingham Forest. The East Midlands club’s travails at the foot of the Championship combined with further injury misfortune and a subsequent loss of form though, and the option to extend his loan until the end of the season wasn’t taken up.
This left Martin to return to Old Trafford with metaphorical tail between legs, his career seemingly having completely stalled and his future unclear. Happily (and much like Chris Eagles a couple of years previously), rather than perhaps understandably going through the motions in the reserves, Lee responded well to the guidance he recieved from Ole Solskjaer and showed just how determined he still was to establish himself in the game. Solskjaer played Martin in a more central attacking position with license to roam, a role Lee had enjoyed in his time at Wimbledon, and it proved to be something of a masterstroke, with the result being the 22 year-old arguably the second string’s best player in the second half of the season as they strung together a terrific run of form.
Sir Alex Ferguson recognised that commitment and progression by handing Martin a league debut in the final game of the Premier League season at Hull, and in that respect he has ended his Old Trafford career on a high. This marked upturn in fortunes over the course of the last six months or so has undoubtedly played a big part in securing such a promising move, and it’s an opportunity Lee is keen to embrace, as he told Ipswich’s official site:
“It obviously wasn’t an easy decision, leaving a club like Manchester United, but I know how ambitious the manager is here and I’m delighted to be part of his plans for the future.
“It’s also important for me to be playing regular first-team football and hopefully I can play my part in helping Ipswich get back in the Premier League.”
Martin’s move reunites him of course with Roy Keane, who also has first-hand experience of the player to call upon:
“Lee was a young lad at Manchester United when I was there and he showed a lot of promise. He’s ambitious and wants to get back to the top level and I’m delighted he wants to do that with Ipswich Town.”
Best of luck Lee.