Craig Martin receives his jersey from Benni McCarthy at Cape Town Stadium. Photo: SUPPLIED
Craig Martin receives his jersey from Benni McCarthy at Cape Town Stadium. Photo: SUPPLIED

Benni McCarthy backs ‘unknown’ Craig Martin

By RODNEY REINERS Time of article published Aug 2, 2017

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CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City’s approach, since their inception last year, has been refreshingly different. Never afraid to gamble, they have often benefited from handing opportunities to individuals others deem too risky.

For example, City brought in a number of unknown, untried foreigners last season - including Australians James Brown and Matt Sim, Latvian Renars Rode and Austrian Roland Putsche. New to the pace and intensity of the PSL, it was always going to be a huge throw of the dice. Brown, Sim and Rode were soon on their way, unable to cope but, in Putsche, the Cape club discovered a real jewel. So, too, last year they signed a defender called Thamsanqa Mkhize, a name not known by too many. But the hard-running full-back turned into one of the stars of the campaign. It’s the concept of risk and reward - and City are certainly in the black in this regard.

This season, it has been no different. The gambling club is still prepared to take risks. Benni McCarthy has no experience as a head coach - but that didn’t worry City and they’ve taken a chance on the former Bafana Bafana striker.

And so, too, by signing local youngster Craig Martin, the Cape club has found another hidden talent who hasn’t been handed a proper opportunity at the highest level. A speedy, committed right wing-back, City have high hopes that the player can make the necessary progress that will elevate him to the PSL team. At 23, Martin may seem a bit old to be arriving in professional football for the first time, but for City boss John Comitis that is, in fact, exactly the motivating factor.

“Some players have not been fortunate enough to be noticed at a young age, or didn’t play at the clubs that promoted youth,” said Comitis. “Sometimes they can get lost and sometimes, at 23, it’s almost too late to be considered... But I believe Craig may still surprise us all and make his mark at this stage of his career, especially based on his belief in his ability, and the guts he has been showing at training.”

Martin is from the Factreton/Kensington area, a suburb that has, over the years, always produced a wealth of football talent. The names are too many mention, but a few of those who went on to play professional football include Glenville goalkeeper Lesley Swartz, Cape Town Spurs wizard Vicky Fortune, gifted Hellenic winger Andrew Josephs and Santos’ Stevie Williams, Deon “Jan” Wareley and Sydney Fick. You can also add to that list of Factreton greats former Bafana striker Shaun Bartlett. More recent stars from the area are Granwald Scott and Riyaad Norodien. Scott, like Martin, hails from Kensington FC, while Norodien’s junior career started at Norway Parks. Norodien is now at Orlando Pirates and Scott was a member of Wits’ title-winning squad last season.

Martin is following in the footsteps of such former stars - and he is determined to make the most of the late opportunity City have handed him. Like Bartlett, he attended Kensington High School, like Scott he played at Kensington FC, and like all of those who went before, he wants to make the most of his talent.

“I’m very happy to have signed for City,” said Martin. “I’m looking to achieve the goals I set for myself while growing up in Kensington and to push to be a regular starter. I also want to show the club, the city and the country what I can do.”

Having come to prominence as a junior at Kensington, where, like Scott, he was coached by the late Ivor Isaacs, Martin went on to play for Hellenic and then Glendene. City assistant-coach Ian Taylor is the man who has been monitoring Martin’s progress - and it was he who suggested McCarthy have a look. McCarthy, who knows the importance and value of opportunity in a footballer’s career, liked what he saw and suggested Comitis invest in the lad.

Martin is revelling in his new surroundings and being coached by McCarthy adds to his motivation.

“Benni is Bafana’s all-time top goalscorer and established himself as a top striker, not only in SA but in Portugal and England too,” said Martin. “He’s a role model, he’s always willing to give players a chance and he shows massive belief in the squad.”

Cape Times

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