It goes without saying that Nigel Martyn would probably walk into the England starting XI if he were a goalkeeper today.
Unfortunately for the former Crystal Palace, Leeds and Everton shot-stopper, a certain David Seaman stood in his way back in 2002.
Martyn was in the form of his career at the time, having established himself as one of the Premier League’s very best keepers while at Leeds United.
He was nevertheless selected to serve as back-up to Seaman at both the 1998 and 2002 World Cups and, in an interview with Betway’s Adam Drury, lifted the lid on life a second-choice keeper at a major tournament.
“Dave was a very good goalkeeper,” Martyn said. “I’d put him in with the likes of Gordon Banks and Peter Shilton. They were the real three greats that we’ve had, and the rest of us haven’t managed to get to the heights that they’ve achieved.
“Since Dave, we’ve had many good goalkeepers, but none in his class. I definitely think if I’d come along a little bit later then there would have been more opportunity. That’s life.”
He’s got no regrets about his England experience though.
“No, it is a proud moment getting selected, and you’re keen to impress in training and be ready,” he added.
“That’s the thing you have to be. Nobody wishes injury or a sending off or illness or anything on anybody else, but these things can happen.”
Martyn didn’t end up getting on the pitch in 2002 but he did come incredibly close, in something of a sliding doors moment for England’s World Cup hopes.
With England leading 1-0 against Brazil in that fateful quarter-final Seaman – who had already kept clean three sheets – landed awkwardly on his shoulder as the first half drew to a close and signalled to the bench he was struggling.
Martyn began to warm-up, suddenly facing the prospect of playing in the biggest game of his life. Rivaldo levelled things up just before the break but throughout half-time Martyn “kept one eye on the tunnel” to see if Seaman returned.
Ultimately, the England number one did return for the second half and the rest, as they say, was history with Ronaldinho bagging the decisive strike with a shot/cross that left Seaman scrambling.
In the immediate aftermath, Martyn knew it was his responsibility to try and help the “visibly upset” Seaman.
“It was a case of putting an arm round him and telling him what a great ‘keeper he was. All the things that you would expect to be said were said by many people because he had the respect of the whole squad,” he told Betway.
“He’d probably look back now and think that was nice, but he was inconsolable at that moment.”
Would things have gone differently with Martyn in goal? It’s impossible to say. Regardless of the error, Seaman had already cemented his place as one of England’s greats, while Martyn is also fondly remembered by fans far and wide.
After Rob Green’s gaffe in 2010 and Joe Hart’s histrionics in 2014, the only hope now is that the England goalkeeper gets through a tournament without incident.
Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.