Malaury Martin’s birth certificate states he is 28 years old. The midfielder’s head insists he is much younger. He is in Edinburgh to make up for lost time and win trophies with Hearts. Tonight is the perfect opprtunity to take that quest forward.
Victory over Raith Rovers at Tynecastle in the Scottish Cup fourth-round replay would set up an intriguing last-16 tie against Hibs. Martin may debate how old he feels physically but there is no doubt in his mind about his ambitions in Scotland. He is here to reach his peak and win silverware.
Injuries have cost him two years of his career since he first emerged at Monaco as one of France’s most prodigious talents. Periods in England, Switzerland and Norway have seen him show glimpses of his ability. He is now back in the UK determined to realise his potential and prove why he was once so highly regarded.
“I’ve been out twice with injuries on my knee and I didn’t play for two seasons in total because of that. That means I’m 28 on paper but, in my head, I’m 24. My ambitions for myself and my team-mates will be high,” he said.
“I will show this on the pitch. I don’t like to explain and say I’m good at this or that. Only the pitch will talk for me. I’m here to win. I hope we can with the cup first and qualify the team for the Europa League. After that, we will see for the league next season. I am here because I’m really ambitious to win titles.”
He will know the value of taking one small step at a time. The fact Hearts failed to see off a Championship club in the cup on Sunday indicates they are some way off challenging at the top level right now. This is part of the reason Martin was signed on a three-and-a-half-year contract.
He made his debut at Stark’s Park in the weekend’s 1-1 draw and showcased impressive technique as well as a useful delivery of dead balls. Fellow new recruits Aaron Hughes, Andraz Struna and Lennard Sowah also got their first taste of action with the Edinburgh club in Fife.
“I talked with the gaffer and he convinced me to come here. I liked his philosophy and the way he sees football. We talked for maybe 30 or 45 minutes and I said ‘yes’ to the project,” said Martin.
“When I joined I looked at the history of Hearts. I looked to see if there were French players and I liked the history. I hope I can also be part of the history here. This clubs has won a couple of titles and that is important. It’s great to join a club where history is important and the fans are behind the team. You see some big players have been here.
“Sunday was my first game for two months. It was okay but a draw was not the result we expected. With four new players, it is not easy after only one week together. Now we have the replay and we have to win. It’s that simple.”
Martin will come up against the Raith centre-back Jean-Yves M’Voto once again this evening – his former colleague from youth international squads in France. “I knew he was in Scotland but I didn’t know the name of his team. In the dressing-room on Sunday, I heard a voice say ‘Malo’, and it was him. It was nice to see his big face.”
Martin is in the fortunate position of being able to count much more recognised names than M’Voto amongst his former team-mates. Only days before he joined Hearts, he was in the company of former Rangers players Dado Prso and Julien Rodriguez in the hills outside Monte Carlo. They remain friends from their time together at Monaco.
“In my first training sessions with Monaco, Patrice Evra was there. Didier Deschamps was head coach,” he recalled. “Monaco used to have some good names and it was great experience to train with these top stars. You learn a lot.
“Before I came here I was with Dado Prso and Julien Rodriguez. We have a place in France where everybody goes to train. Before I knew Hearts wanted me, we spoke about the Scottish league. They enjoyed being here and said the fans, the atmosphere and the players were great.
“Dado is a big man, a nice man. His son is now playing for Nice in their academy. He had a good record in Monaco and here with Rangers. I remember him because I was in the stadium when he scored his four goals against Deportivo La Coruna.”
Where is this training venue which attracts the big names from the south of France?
“Now, they don’t train there. They just eat,” laughed Martin. “After Christmas, I was there with a friend of mine. It’s close to where Monaco train at La Turbie. It is a little bit high and we have a place five minutes from there. You have a forest and everybody goes there to run. It’s a place where Deschamps used to go. Also a lot of big names in football go there to train and stay fit.”
Curiously, Martin took the decision to leave Monaco for Blackpool of all places in 2010. “I cancelled my contract because at that time the club was unstable,” he explained. “The people controlling the club changed totally what they were doing and I was not in their plans.
“I got the opportunity from Blackpool and that was great. After that, I got my first knee injury but I don’t regret anything. I had been at Monaco for years. Everything was good and it felt like home. But when people you trust change totally and say they didn’t want me any more, for me it was a big disappointment.
“I was young. It was strange. They’ve had a lot of coaches since. It’s different from Monaco to Blackpool! My family is still there and I go back all the time but for me the football was the most important thing.
“Different friends of mine have played in the Scottish league and I have played in the UK so I also know the football here. Everybody in the world knows the Scottish league is a great league.
“One I know is Tony Andreu [on loan at Dundee United from Norwich]. We are the same age and we played against each other when we were eight years old.
“I saw him in the summer and he told me he enjoyed Scotland. Everybody knows the reputation here. It’s good football and the stadiums are full.”