Exposed in front of raucous and often spiteful congregations of rival supporters gathered in home ends during his playing days, Nigel Martyn has known what it feels like to be alone and vulnerable.
The Leeds United goalkeeping legend has done the equivalent of run the gauntlet in scores of hostile arenas in his time at United, whether it be in England at the likes of Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge or abroad, infamously including Galatasaray’s Ali Sami Yen Stadium in April 2000.
But, on the pitch at least, he thankfully never experienced anything quite like what happened to one of his fellow goalkeeping union members in Chris Kirkland in a shameful episode on Friday night at Hillsborough.
Martyn considers it a privilege to have stood behind thousands of passionate and law-abiding United supporters during his time with the club – with his sadness at the actions of one of their so-called number in Aaron Cawley in a televised attack on Kirkland which has rightfully culminated in a swift custodial sentence – being acute.
Cawley pleaded guilty at Sheffield Magistrates Court to assault and entering the field of play yesterday and received a 16-week jail sentence and six-year football banning order from judges, with United – the club he purports to support – having pledged to ban him for life from Elland Road when his banning order expires.
Martyn, whose popularity with Whites fans is such that he was named as honorary president of LUST (Leeds United Supporters Trust) just over 12 months ago, has backed the punishment and added that he also wants future offenders who randomly invade the pitch when a game is taking place to also receive life-time bans.
Martyn told the YEP: “There is no place for what happened on Friday. I know Chris Kirkland and he’s a nice guy and it was not as if he was having a go.
“He had conceded a goal and looked frustrated and kicked the ball downfield and had got his hands on his hips resigned to Leeds having just scored.
“I think initially the man had come on to take the mickey out of him and then something just clicked in his mind and he shoved him and he should not be allowed inside a ground anywhere again.
“I just thought he would bait him a little bit when he came on. But it was like a trigger went off in his mind and he lost it for a few seconds.
“I cannot say I ever had an incident like that in my career. It was shocking.
“I have had loads of fans run onto the pitch at the end of a season and things like that and did have coins thrown at me in one particular game at Stoke playing for Crystal Palace and that was horrible and really not nice.
“Every time a ball was going for a goal-kick, I was facing the crowd to get the ball and they were coin-throwing. I was worried that they may take out an eye, to be honest.
“But I have never had anyone come on like that on Friday.
“People do remember the time when the fan came on when Peter Enckelman let in that goal for Aston Villa against Birmingham and you do think when things like that happen and on Friday: ‘What if he was carrying a knife and had an ulterior motive?’
“If you are going to go on the pitch, other than the times you are celebrating promotion at the end of a season and everyone rushes on which is a different circumstance,
“I think if you enter a field of play like that during a game, then it should be an automatic life ban.
“If everyone knows that, then you go on at your own risk and potentially go to jail and everything that entails.”
The actions of Cawley, allied to an minority of fans who chanted vile obscenities during Friday’s game, has collectively stained United’s reputation at a time when football hardly needs any more reasons to plunge the gutter.
Whites fans may have been at the forefront of heart-felt tributes to mark the passing of Gary Speed just under 12 months ago with their vocal support terrifically touching, but for many outsiders looking in, sadly, mud sticks and Friday’s incident will have enabled many rival supporters to indulge in their favourite pastime – Leeds United bashing.
Martyn sampled plenty of the good during his time at United and while Friday was a wound to the club’s reputation, he is adamant that the overriding and vast majority of the Whites nation are standard-bearers for everything that is right about the game.
He said: “I have been supported all over Europe by Leeds fans and they have been absolutely fantastic.
“They had a reputation in the Seventies, perhaps, and it has always hung around the club.
“But in my time there, everything was fantastic. I had six or seven great seasons of them stood behind my goal cheering.
“They support in huge numbers over huge distances and in my day, we were all over Europe and they came and followed.
“Even in pre-season in games in the likes of Norway, they would still be there and turn up in their droves and still do now through difficult times, which is to be commended.
“Friday’s episode just adds to some unfortunate things in the past and continues to give the club a bad name.
“That is the disappointing thing; one mindless person takes it to go on the pitch...But he’s got what he deserves now and he will banned for life now from watching football and I think that is the appropriate measure taken.
“The positive, if you can take one, is that there were lots of Leeds fans tweeting and doing all sorts of things to name him as they realised it does not do the club any good and gives them a bad name and hopefully that will be taken into account.
“I think there is a minority within every football club practically that have got the potential to let the club down every now and again. Most supporters up and down the country whoever they support are decent.
“Football is a tribal thing and you want fans to be passionate in the way they support, which gives the players a lift and an edge at home.
“You want them to be noisy and vociferous and I haven’t got a problem with that. But one supporter spoiled that on Friday for Leeds and it tarnished things.
“It is disappointing for those who spent thousands of pounds of their hard-earned money on the thing that love.”