A WIDE smile stretched to the corners of Russell Martin's face as he recalled lifting the Championship playoff trophy as Norwich City captain.

Monday, May 15, 2015, still remains one of the most joyful days of his 38 years on earth.

Early goals from Cameron Jerome and Nathan Redmond prompted joyous yellow scenes inside Wembley Stadium.

Martin could have got on the scoresheet himself, heading just over for what would have been a rare goal in Canaries colours.

"To go up the steps at Wembley, that's the stuff you dream of," he said speaking after the game, the playoff trophy still in his hands and champagne staining his jumper.

"Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to do that as a captain. It's the stuff you dream about as a kid."

Daily Echo: Norwich City were victorious in their last Championship play-off tilt

Almost a decade on, that childlike joy remains as Martin thinks back to that moment: “It was one of the best days of my life and my family’s,” he told the Daily Echo.

"To be at Wembley and walk up those steps to lift the trophy is the best way to do it. I’ve been promoted both ways.

"I got promoted automatically, but I’ll take the memory of the playoffs over the other one every time.

"I shared that memory with a few people on the day. Gilly was in the crowd that day. Rhys was drunk by the time he got on the pitch at the end."

Nine years later, Martin has another chance to achieve playoff glory. This time as a manager. 

Daily Echo: Russell Martin has won 57 per cent of his league games as Saints bossRussell Martin has won 57 per cent of his league games as Saints boss (Image: PA)

His Southampton side missed out on automatic promotion, despite earning 87 points, and now require the chaos of the Championship playoffs.

First, they must beat West Brom in the semi-final to set up a final against Leeds United and his former side Norwich.

“The playoffs are amazing if you win them. I have spoken about that with the players," the retired defender added. 

"We have spoken about how much it meant to me and my family. It was beautiful and brilliant. I hope to experience that again now as a manager.”

Much like Southampton, Norwich were aiming to bounce straight back to the Premier League having been relegated in the previous season.

However, that's where the similarities end according to Martin: “I wouldn’t want to play against our team now,” he said after taking time to compare the two sides.

“At Norwich, we had a group of players that had been together for quite a while. We had players who were in their prime and had played hundreds of Championship games.

"It was very different to the dynamic of our dressing room here at Southampton. We have a lot of young men who are finding their way as well as a few in that bracket.

“But at Norwich, we also had players who had been in the Premier League for a very long time and were not used to the relentlessness of playing 46 games.

"We went from a team that had to fight against relegation from the Premier League to one trying to win every week - a lot like we have done here.

“We managed to keep a lot of the players who got relegated, mainly because nobody wanted us, unlike here at Southampton."

Although the situations are different and football has changed significantly since his last triumph at Wembley, Martin hopes those experiences can help him guide his players to glory.

As a club, Southampton's only playoff appearance ended in disappointment.

A defeat on penalties to Derby in 2006-07 dashed their promotion dreams before they could plan their travel to the capital. 

Daily Echo: Former Southampton striker Grzegorz Rasiak celebrates a goal sending Saints to extra-time against Derby Former Southampton striker Grzegorz Rasiak celebrates a goal sending Saints to extra-time against Derby (Image: Daily Echo)

READ MORE: Rasiak et al: Southampton's 06/07 playoff run through the eyes of their key men

“There aren't a lot of similarities between the two teams," Martin conceded, "but what I can take from it is my experience of being in it.

"I can take what I felt it required as a player, what was needed from the manager and the leaders.

“I can take all of that into this playoff campaign at Southampton to work out what caused us issues and what was really important. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage.”

Daily Echo: Jack Stephens lost the League One playoff final while on loan at Swindon TownJack Stephens lost the League One playoff final while on loan at Swindon Town (Image: PA)

The boss isn't the only person at Saints with previous playoff experience.

Captain Jack Stephens has lost a playoff final before, while Ross Stewart and Joe Aribo have won playoff finals.

Loanee David Brooks was beaten in playoffs with Bournemouth and lost a European Championship playoff final against Jan Bednarek's Poland earlier this season.

James Bree, Ryan Manning and Che Adams have also turned out in some of the EFL's most high-pressure occasions.

But how much can those previous experiences help as a player? Can they be an advantage? Martin isn't sure.

"You learn from every experience. I think you probably take a bit more from the heartbreaking ones because when you win you tend not to think too much about it.

“When you lose you look back and question everything to try and understand why. Maybe that will help us.

"The biggest thing that will help us is the boys staying brave, regardless of the situation. Be it the first leg, the second leg, or hopefully the final, the boys need to stay brave.

"Being yourself is the toughest test in football when the pressure is really on. It’s up to us to make sure they do that. I’m pretty sure, no, I’m really sure that they will stay brave."