West Bromwich Albion v Harrogate Town: Testing himself against Premier League defenders up next in Aaron Martin's football fairy tale
Harrogate Town striker Aaron Martin is not exaggerating. His footballing journey over the last 18 months has been quite remarkable; an ascent up the footballing pyramid akin to something you might find in a comic book.
We’re not yet entering Jamie Vardy territory, though the 29-year-old is undoubtedly on the kind of unlikely upward trajectory that bears some comparison.
At the end of 2018/19, Martin was turning out for Brighouse Town in English football’s eighth tier. In between matches, he worked as a scaffolder.
This evening, he will walk out at The Hawthorns to contest a League Cup second round-tie with West Bromwich Albion of the Premier League.
“There’s not a chance I’d have believed you if you’d said to me last summer that I’d be lining up against a Premier League team in a Carabao Cup game in 12 months time,” the ex-
Sheffield United and Barnsley academy player told the Harrogate Advertiser.
“It’s happened so quickly. I’ve reached the Football League, which was a childhood ambition. I feel like I’m living on a cloud at the moment
“I’m just trying to take it all in, and enjoy each moment, because a footballer’s career is a short one.
“Playing at West Brom will be a really special moment, that’s what every player wants from a cup draw – to end up with the chance to take on a Premier League club.
“It’s exciting. Everyone is buzzing for the game and we go into it with no fear because after playing at Wembley [in last month’s National League play-off final] everything seems easier by comparison.”
A bundle of energy, a big, physical presence with a turn of pace and an eye for goal, Martin ticks all the boxes and netted for the first time in Town colours during Saturday's 4-0 rout of Southend United.
His performance, which included two assists for Jack Muldoon, was undoubtedly his most complete since joining the club earlier this year. He has promised plenty during his previous four outings, but at the weekend, everything came together.
"It was just nice to get off the mark," Martin added.
"I've kind of been kicking myself because I should have scored at Wembley [in the National League play-off final] and I've had a few other chances before the Southend game. Maybe I'm too critical of myself, but it was grating on me.
"If I'm honest, I felt a massive weight lift off my shoulders, to finally get my first goal for the is was massive.
"Once you get one, it makes it easier to score the next, then the next. I wanted to start the League Two season with a goal, and I've managed to do that. It was a great feeling."
Next up is tonight's face off with Premier League West Brom. Such is his character, unfazed Martin views taking on the Baggies simply as an opportunity to test himself against elite-level opponents.
“It’s a remarkable opportunity to go and play a Premier League team and see where we are as a club, and personally on an individual level,” he said.
"If I play, I'll find out where I stand against top-level defenders, we'll see how I can do up against really good players.
"My style of play might not be something West Brom's defenders are used to. It might be different for them being under so much pressure when they're on the ball. We'll have to wait and see, but it's a very exciting prospect."