THE Whites nation have cast their votes – with Nigel Martyn the overwhelming choice as the top stopper in Leeds United’s illustrious history.
Nigel Martyn polled a whopping 68 per cent of the vote after the YEP asked readers to name their best-ever United goalkeeper, with the classy Cornishman one of eight nominees announced in Monday’s Post Match sports supplement.
Martyn becomes the first member of our United Dream Team, with the verdict of hundreds of Leeds fans who voted on line or by post an unequivocal one.
The former England stopper – who became the most expensive No 1 in English football history when he signed for United for £2.25m from Crystal Palace in the summer of 1996 – proved somewhat of a precious parting gift from former boss Howard Wilkinson, who left just months after signing him from under the noses of Everton.
Martyn – now 43 and happily settled with his family in North Yorkshire – proved a reassuring constant during his distinguished six years of sterling service at Elland Road, where his contribution was wholly respected by supporters, team-mates, managers, coaches and playing peers alike.
Granted, the consummate custodian – famously propelled to stardom after being spotted playing for Cornish non-leaguers St Blazey by Bristol Rover’s tea lady – may never have won anything tangible with United, but the esteem in which he was held carried countless currency.
His place in the Premier Team of the Year in 2000 following an outstanding campaign being a case in point.
But the high regard he was held in was perhaps never shown more than on a fateful spring evening in April 2004, when the then 37-year-old returned to relegation-haunted Leeds with Everton, who he had joined the previous September.
The Whites faithful, among the most notoriously parochial in the land, put rivalry aside to give Martyn a standing ovation after he repelled everything that was thrown at him and thwarted the hosts almost single-handedly.
Perhaps it is that degree of respect and ultimate and rare compliment from the Elland Road faithful – who are grudging in their praise of rivals – which shows better than anything just why Martyn is the number one No 1 for countless United fans.
That said, legendary seventies keeper David Harvey also attracted his fair hardcore of supporter weaned on the glory years under Don Revie, with the Leeds lad recognised for his assured contribution.
The Scottish international was particularly revered for his role in the line-up which was the talk of British football after going 29 matches unbeaten at the start of the 1973-74 campaign, when the men from Elland Road turned the Division One title race into nothing short of a procession.
Billyboy4 emailed on the subject of Harvey: “..Never wore the big gloves, (but had) bare hands and bravery.” And 1leeds_lad commented: “David Harvey – voted into world cup tournament team for 1974 World Cup.”
Martyn’s fierce rival in the latter stages of his United career, a talented young upstart by the name of Robinson, wasn’t without his quorum of admirers, with SiBryan1979 commenting: “In my era (of) Nigel Martyn or Paul Robinson, I’d go with Robinson. When he was at his best for us he was brilliant.”
Several fans didn’t forget the understated, but key contribution of veteran keeper Mervyn Day – or “Merv the Swerve” as Jonny Greenwood called him, with the Londoner playing a big role in the Division Two Championship-winning season of 1989-90, which proved somewhat of a watershed moment for United.
How you voted
Mervyn Day 3%, David Harvey 16%, John Lukic 4%, Nigel Martyn 68%, Paul Robinson 4%, Gary Sprake 5%, Dave Stewart 0%, Neil Sullivan 0%.
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