Meet Dean Martin, the former West Ham United midfielder charged with unearthing Iceland’s next generation of footballers.
It was the spring of 1992 when Martin, a 19-year-old who had been signed from non-league Fisher Athletic for £25,000 the previous May, made three first-team appearances under Billy Bonds.
“I was signed by Billy, having previously been with West Ham between the ages of eleven and 14 and gone into non-league, and I had a terrific three years there,” he recalled, speaking to whufc.com during the Hammers’ recent visit to Reykjavik. “I was fortunate enough to play at Upton Park and it doesn’t get any better than walking out there to the sound of Bubbles.
“We had an amazing squad with people like Julian Dicks, Alvin Martin, Trevor Morley, Ian Bishop, Frank McAvennie, Martin and Clive Allen, George Parris and Steve Potts. They made a great team.
“It was a rollercoaster ride, but the fans were tremendous and were always there through thick and thin. They’ve got it in their heart and it’s a terrific Club.”
West Ham should be looking to these type of countries because these Icelandic players really fit into the English temperament and environment
With his opportunities in Claret and Blue limited, Martin joined Kettering Town before, in 1995, moving 1,000 miles north west to the Icelandic town of Akureyri, where he played for local club KA (Knattspyrnufélag Akureyrar).
Over the next 19 years, Martin played for KA, IA (Íþróttabandalag Akraness) and IBV (Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja) in the summers, while also turning out for clubs in Hong Kong, Ireland and England in between.
It was with KA in 2008 that Martin embarked on a coaching career that led, in January this year, to his appointment as the Icelandic FA’s head of talent identification.
With the senior national team making headlines by reaching the quarter-finals of UEFA Euro 2016, his new role is to ensure the conveyor belt of young Icelandic football talent continues to roll.
“Football is booming in Iceland at the moment. We are surfing and we need to catch the right wave and keep riding it and keep doing what we are doing well. We’ve got great facilities over here, compared to how it was 20 years ago when we were training out on gravel!
“It’s all going forward and it’s important for us to move with the times and not get lost in the euphoria of success. We need to keep in mind what made us successful and do it going forward.”
West Ham have never had an Icelandic player make a first-team appearance, but Martin is also hopeful of providing his old club with one or two promising youngsters in the future.
“West Ham should be looking to these type of countries because these Icelandic players really fit into the English temperament and environment,” he confirmed.
“It’s only two-and-a-half hours from Iceland to London and the way the people here are, they are not dissimilar to East Enders, as they are hard-working, funny and they want to succeed.”