CAPE TOWN - Craig Martin has made such an impression in his debut season in the PSL that even opposition coach Gavin Hunt was waxing lyrical about the speedy Cape Town City winger. Bidvest Wits defeated City for the first time in five games at the Athlone Stadium at the weekend - but, in the post-match interviews, both coaches raved about Martin.
After yet another star turn from Martin in City’s 2-1 defeat to Wits, the 24-year-old will again play an influential role when the Citizens tackle Baroka FC in a PSL fixture at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane tonight (kick-off 7.30pm).
Martin is not just fleet of foot on the field, but he has also just as rapidly seduced his dynamic presence into the consciousness of the football public with some scintillating performances this season.
When the winger from Factreton signed for Cape Town City in July last year, you could almost hear the echo reverberating through the PSL: Who? Well, a few months down the line, everybody knows who Martin is - and he’s done it through the sheer weight of his inspirational, energetic displays for the Cape side.
Martin may have emerged on the losing side at Athlone last Saturday, but he impressed with his pace and energy. He was up and down the flank like a jack-in-the-box, terrorising the Clever Boys’ defence as they simply couldn’t stay with him for speed.
And when his teammate Thabo Nodada produced a special moment of guile and trickery to create the opening, it was Martin who reacted quickest to steer in a delightful equalising goal for City. Despite the defeat - City’s third on the trot in the league - Martin had nevertheless made an impact.
Wits coach Hunt is not someone who lavishes praise too often - so, when he does, take note.
“City are a good side, with good pace and they have huge potential to break out against teams, especially with his boy Martin. I mean he’s been a revelation for me. I’ve watched him, he’s got energy in abundance. Look at him, what’s his age? Where’s he been? There must be millions of players like him. It’s all about academies, but where’s he been?”
The last time we played Baroka, Craig Martin scored his first #CTCFC goal.The match ended in a 1-1 draw...
Can Martin impact the game against Baroka again???#iamCityFC #Martin30 pic.twitter.com/y8BuWSQTnu
Hunt is particularly referring to PSL clubs’ obsession with looking for talent in the many youth development programmes across the country, and missing out on the good prospects to be found in amateur and lower division clubs.
Martin, for example, started playing at his local amateur club Kensington FC (the same club at which Wits midfielder Granwald Scott began his career). He never made it into any fancy academy, had stints at Glendene and Hellenic, before arriving as a late bloomer at City last year.
McCarthy had one look at the quick-as-lightning winger at training and urged his boss John Comitis to sign the player. The rest, as the cliché goes, is history. Martin is quickly becoming a household name in Cape football.
But, with City in desperate need of a change in fortune after three consecutive defeats, McCarthy is determined to turn things around against Baroka on Tuesday night - and, no doubt, he’ll be looking for another top-class performance from Martin.
Meanwhile, the other Mother City club, Ajax Cape Town, are at a stage where nothing less than victory matters. After a 1-0 defeat to Golden Arrows at the weekend, coach Muhsin Ertugral’s men simply have to pick up points in their two games this week. The Cape side is still wallowing second-from-bottom on the PSL log.
First up for Ajax is a home clash against SuperSport United at the Athlone Stadium tomorrow night (7.30pm). After that, they take to the road for a tricky encounter against Bloemfontein Celtic in the Free State on Sunday afternoon (3.30pm).