CAPE TOWN - Cape Town City's Craig Martin has come from nowhere, from complete obscurity, to be one of the PSL’s most exciting talents.
On Tuesday, in another eye-catching performance in a 1-1 draw with Baroka FC at Cape Town Stadium, it was Martin who popped up with the equalising goal, and he was also desperately unlucky not to get the winner as he terrorised the Baroka defence in the closing stages.
Needless to say, City coach Benni McCarthy was lavish in his praise of a player who just a few months ago had been languishing in the amateur ranks.
“Martin has cemented his place in the team,” said McCarthy. “He certainly doesn’t look like a player who has just come from amateur football, he looks like he’s rather used to PSL football. He’s fearless, he’s committed, he gets into dangerous areas and he gets the team to go forward. At the same time, he is inexperienced, he makes mistakes, but he also does so many good things on the field.”
Martin’s greatest asset is his passion. More than that, the 24-year-old winger from Factreton has even already got his own personal fan club. At every City home game, there’s a sizeable group cheering his every move, chanting his nickname “Dooger”.
On Tuesday, this Martin appreciation society unfurled a banner that read: “Ken jy vir Dooger?” (in English: Do you know Dooger?). Well, if people never knew “Dooger” before, they certainly do now.
There are footballers who need a bit of time to adapt to the rigours of top-level football. Nothing wrong with that - it’s up to the coaches to have patience. But, on the other hand, there are also footballers capable of making the transition from amateur to professional as if they were born for it. Like Martin.
But, as City now prepare to face Golden Arrows in Durban on Saturday, McCarthy was frank in his assessment of his team’s failings at the moment.
“It seems to be a familiar pattern with us,” said the City coach. “We have a good first half and then a poor second half, or we have a poor first half and a decent second half. Again (against Baroka) we started like we were on holiday, we were lethargic and second to everything. I thought we were fortunate to be in the contest at halftime.
“The players got a good few boots up their arses during the break. Then, after we conceded a goal, we finally got some urgency to our game. We deservedly got one back and, after that, we were all over them, and should really have finished it off.
“It’s the story of Cape Town City at the moment as we again threw away vital points. I guess I should feel happy for finally knowing what it’s like to draw a game. (It was City’s first league draw of the season, to go with five wins and four defeats). It means that we are still there and thereabouts on the log. But, really, three points against Baroka would have been better.”
City’s star winger Aubrey Ngoma was on the bench, after recovering from injury, but saw no action. “Ngoma was going to be my second change,” McCarthy said. “But then it started pouring and, on the slippery surface, I did not want to put the player in jeopardy. I didn’t want to be selfish and only think of myself in wanting the victory, so I decided not to risk him.”