That break kicked off an illustrious career for the goalkeeper who, just over two years later – on this day (21st November) in 1989 – completed a move to Crystal Palace for a fee of £1 million, making him British football’s first-ever million-pound goalkeeper.
He went on to more than justify that title, being voted into Palace’s Centenary XI in 2005 after notching up an impressive 349 appearances between the posts for the red and blues.
Among them were a winning appearance in the 1991 Full Members’ Cup Final at Wembley – Martyn keeping goal in a 4-1 win over future club Everton, a game in which Ian Wright scored from the goalkeeper’s assist – and the 1990 FA Cup Final on the same turf, which culminated in defeat to Manchester United after a replay.
Those grand stages, those professional environments, were a far cry from Martyn’s humble origins in St Austell, Cornwall – a town with a population today of little less than 25,000.
Recalling the feeling of that move as a 23-year-old, Martyn remembered: “Moving to London, we were put up in the Selsdon Park hotel. I went to training one day, so Amanda [Martyn’s wife] got a taxi into Croydon – and got lost in the Allders and couldn’t find her way out! She was quite upset… the giant store down in Cornwall is nowhere near as big as that!
“It was a culture shock for both of us. It was an eye-opener for me because the lads at Bristol Rovers were great, but they were lower-league players. Suddenly you came into a changing room with lots of funny guys who were all vying for centre spot all the time. It was quite good fun.
“I was quite shy anyway so I just kept my mouth shut for most of the time! “You move to a new club and you’ve got to earn your right in the pecking order first. I don’t think you can go straight in.”
As for his unprecedented valuation, Martin explained: “It was a little bit surreal, but [saying] ‘not my valuation’ was how I dealt with it. There’s no way, at that time, I would have said any player was worth that amount of money, so to become the first million-pound goalkeeper…
“Everyone was saying there must be a lot of pressure with it – the papers or anyone who interviewed me – but I didn’t really feel the pressure of that. For me, I was just going to go and do what I’d been doing.
“That’s as much pressure as I put on myself: to make sure I was ready to try my best in every game. Other people’s valuations, I let them talk about, I just said that was Crystal Palace’s valuation of me and left it at that.”