Russell Martin ‘really grateful’ after Southampton beat Leeds in play-off final

Russell Martin ‘Really Grateful’ After Southampton Beat Leeds In Play-Off Final
Russell Martin tasted success for a third time against old boss Daniel Farke, with Armstrong’s first-half strike the difference.
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By George Sessions, PA

Russell Martin expressed his gratitude and acknowledged he was not a “sexy appointment” after guiding Southampton to the Premier League with a precious 1-0 win over Leeds at Wembley.

Adam Armstrong struck midway through the first half to haunt Leeds again with his 24th goal of the campaign and it proved enough to send Saints back to the top flight at the first time of asking.


It continued the remarkable rise of Martin after he masterminded promotion to the Premier League in only his fifth season as a manager.

The 38-year-old paid tribute to the Southampton owners and former director of football Jason Wilcox, who brought him to the club but left to join Manchester United last month and was at Wembley a day earlier for the FA Cup final.

Martin said: “I just feel really grateful. I have felt that all week really.

“Just felt a load of gratitude for what the players have given us, the staff, the supporters and I feel immense pride in what we have achieved.


“I just feel grateful to the owners for giving me the opportunity in the first place, for Jason, who had a good day himself here yesterday.

“I feel like it wasn’t a sexy appointment for Southampton Football Club, me coming in, but they were brave enough to give me the opportunity and hopefully we have repaid them with a day they will remember forever.

“It has given me one of the best days of my career for sure, so yeah I just feel nothing but gratitude and a lot of love for the people I’ve worked with all year.”

Saints endured a rollercoaster ride before they made it to Wembley, losing four in a row in September before Martin oversaw a club record 25-match unbeaten run.


A poor end to the campaign, which included a 5-0 loss at Leicester, threatened to derail their promotion bid, but they regrouped to beat West Brom in the play-off semi-finals.

It set up another clash with Leeds and Martin tasted success for a third time against old boss Daniel Farke, with Armstrong’s first-half strike the difference.

Leeds started well, but Southampton made their numerical advantage in midfield count when Flynn Downes found Will Smallbone, who brilliantly passed through to Armstrong and he drilled into the corner.

Farke sent on Dan James in search of a leveller and the Wales international struck the crossbar with six minutes left before another low effort was parried away by Alex McCarthy to earn Southampton victory.


“We missed a few passes we would never normally miss, so I just wanted to tell them to stick to the game plan a little bit,” Martin revealed.

“We scored a really, really nice goal and it is something the guys work on a lot in terms of the way it built up.

“I didn’t want us to defend as long as we did in the last 25 minutes, but with the tension in the game, I understand that because it’s a big occasion.

“I felt when we had to defend, we defended so well and Alex when we needed him was brilliant.”


Defeat for Leeds consigned them to more play-off heartache with this a sixth consecutive time they have failed to go up via that route in the club’s history and ensured they missed out on a revenue boost of £140million, according to Deloitte.

Farke said: “Yes, as you can imagine it couldn’t be worse. Obviously we’re suffering a lot in this moment.

“I can’t really say we are the worst side in this final and to lose this final hurts a lot.

“We are very disappointed, but I also don’t want to miss to say first of all congratulations to Southampton. They defended really, really well and were pretty effective.”

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