Angel on exit of his ‘friend forever,’ his fitness and his philosophy on the future

Picture by Gareth Williams/ Football, Sky Bet League One; 'Millwall v Chesterfield; 21/02/2017 KO 7.45pm;  'The New Den;'copyright picture;Howard Roe/'Spirites Angel Martinez challenges Millwall's Ben Thompson
Picture by Gareth Williams/ Football, Sky Bet League One; 'Millwall v Chesterfield; 21/02/2017 KO 7.45pm; 'The New Den;'copyright picture;Howard Roe/'Spirites Angel Martinez challenges Millwall's Ben Thompson

It’s been an emotional week for Angel Martinez, Chesterfield’s loquacious Spaniard.

Seemingly incapable of a one-word answer, the midfielder waxed lyrical on a number of issues close to his heart at today’s Proact press conference.

On Tuesday he made his first start in the Football League since August 2015, ironically at the same ground where he made his last start and against former employers Millwall.

Two days later he learned of the departure of the man who was his ‘biggest supporter’ in that 18 month battle to recover from a nightmare knee injury.

There’s little time for the 31-year-old to sit and reflect on these events however, with another huge game lined up at home to Oxford tomorrow and a relegation dog fight to survive.

Thankfully, Tuesday’s momentous return to the starting line-up didn’t take too much out of him physically.

“It was very special,” he said.

“As soon as I knew I was to play it was a mix of nerves and excitement.

“It was the thing I was waiting for, getting 90 minutes.

“It wasn’t easy, away at Millwall, who were 15 games in a row without a defeat, who had just beaten Premier League champions Leicester.

“To play 90 minutes, get a point and see the lads perform was very, very positive.

“I was surprised after the game because I expected to be more tired, I was thinking maybe in minute 70 I would have to ask for the change.

“But all this time I have been taking care of food and fitness. I knew I was ready.

“I was very happy to complete a full game against a very difficult team and the best thing is I helped the team to get that point.

“All the problems with the injury are gone and now it’s a new season for me ahead.”

You don’t spend over a year on the sideline and undergo a number of operations then simply forget all about the serious knee injury that caused it all.

But the joint in question is taking up less and less of Martinez’ thinking time.

“I still feel the knee all the time, 24 hours, it’s like some pressure,” he said.

“But the leg is getting stronger all the time, more comfortable, lighter.

“Now I don’t think too much about the knee.

“Against Millwall the second half was quite a lot of running, it was quite a lot of work so I didn’t have to think about the knee.

“I’m not 100 per cent but I’m nearly there.”

He’s also not allowing question marks over his future as a Spireite to cloud his mind at such a pivotal point of the season.

His philosophy is simple – take care of things on the pitch and the rest will take care of itself.

“Of course you want to win the game but always in the back of your mind there’s relegation, what is going to happen in the summer, players out of contract,” he said.

“But we have to think about now.

“We have a new manager, new ideas, new players, it’s all about competing.

“I have three girls, I’m from Spain, I don’t know what’s going on in the summer, where I’m going to be with my girls.

“I am a footballer but I am also a father and a husband.

“What can I do? Do you think about it or work hard today and do my best.

“If I do my best today, in the future it’s going to be the best for my family.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen, I am far from home, my girls go to the school, but if I think about it too much my mind will get too busy.

“If I keep concentrating, not just in games, every training session, recovering well, giving 100 per cent and competing – compete in the game, get the result and save the season.

“I know if I do alright in football everything else is going to be alright.”

The fact that Martinez is even involved in the relegation battle is a testament to his own determination and strength of character.

But he has had help.

And yesterday it emerged that someone who played a big part in his recovery, fitness coach Mal Purchase, had left the club by mutual consent.

His exit made it possible for boss Gary Caldwell to bring in another first team coach, Steve Eyre.

Martinez has been around long enough to understand how the game works, but that doesn’t make it easier to see a friend depart.

“I don’t think anyone expected it,” he said.

“It’s a decision of the club. I respect all the decisions.

“Talking for myself I was very sad, all afternoon I was thinking about Mal because for 18 months I was recovering with him.

“He had been my biggest support here, not just with fitness and recovery but always every day in the afternoon I got a message from him asking how I was.

“When I was in Spain I worked with a physio for a few days and every day Mal was in touch.

“He took me to do fitness tests everywhere, he was always thinking about how to get (me) better.

“It was a big shock for me because I have a special relationship with me.

“He was a top professional, really enjoyed his work.

“I wish him all the best, professionally and personally he is going to be my friend forever.”

Having paid tribute to Purchase, thoughts quickly returned to the task facing the former Blackpool man and his Town team-mates.

Oxford United, a side who have built up a real head of steam recently, are the visitors to the Proact tomorrow.

It’s an opportunity for him to end a rollercoaster week on a high.

Tuesday night’s performance in the 0-0 draw with Millwall has filled him with confidence.

“We showed that we can fight against any team in the league because we did so well against Millwall, one of the best teams, definitely a play-off team,” he said.

“We have to keep that and use it in every single game.

“Why can’t we beat Oxford tomorrow?

“That confidence is going to be key.

“With the same mentality and the same concentration from Tuesday night there’s nothing to be worried about.”