By his own admission, Malaury Martin’s first six months as a Hearts player haven’t gone as well as he, Ian Cathro or the fans had hoped.
The France Under-21 internationalist arrived at Tynecastle in January with a decent-looking CV behind him. Having come through the ranks at Monaco, he left for the rather less-salubrious coastal town of Blackpool.
Next was Middlesborough – probably as far removed from Monte Carlo as you’re likely to get – managing three goals in 18 appearances on Teeside. Spells in Switzerland and Norway followed before Martin arrived in Gorgie a little over six months ago on a three-and-a-half-year deal. Given his background, fans were cautiously optimistic of what the Nice-born player could produce in maroon.
A combination of joining on the back of an extended break mid-way through the season and an initial struggle to adapt to the Scottish game meant Martin hasn’t shown his best since then. The payer himself hopes the work done this summer will allow him to make a far more positive impact.
“It wasn’t what I was expecting for myself,” Martin told the Evening News of his time so far in Scotland. “But now there’s a new season arriving and I have some goals for myself and for the team. I can only focus on this.
“It’s good for me as it’s important to get a pre-season with the team. For maybe three years now I haven’t had a normal pre-season so it’s important for my body.
“I’ve worked hard to improve my fitness, to be at my best physically and I’m looking forward to showing the best of myself this season.”
A common criticism of Martin was his apparent struggle to get used to the tempo of matches. It’s not something he disagrees with. “Of course, because the pace of the game in Scotland is different,” he admitted. “It’s not an excuse, but when I arrived I was two months out of competition.
“To be ready when you come to Scotland and deal with the physical part, you need to have had more games. For my position this is really important and for this season I have had both and I’m ready for the fight.
“It was no surprise – I knew what I was coming in to in Scottish football. In January it’s different because now we have more time to prepare and also now I know the players, I know how Ian wants the team to play and how the team works.”
Off the pitch, the start to Martin’s summer hasn’t been ideal. Firstly with a family bereavement to contend with, he was also struck by the death of former Hearts striker and fellow Frenchman Stephane Paille last week.
“Honestly, it’s been a really tough two weeks,” he admitted. ‘Personally, my wife lost her grandfather and in France also, Louis Nicollin, the chairman of Montpellier, died one or two days after Paille. It’d been a terrible last two weeks with people who have passed away. I saw the news for Paille – what can you say?
“I knew he played for Hearts and read a lot about him. He was a really interesting guy. After his career he had a different life. I don’t know him personally, but it was interesting to learn about him as a person.
“I wasn’t really aware of his early career in Fance, but he scored a lot of goals and he was an international player in the French team – you know hard that is to become – that’s really impressive.”
One positive of last season on a personal note for Martin was the success of his beloved Monaco. Leonardo Jardim’s side won their first Ligue 1 title in 17 years and reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, giving Martin something to cheer from his Edinburgh flat.
“When you have been at a club for ten years you always have a of memories so it was great to see them have a season like this,” he smiled. “Also when you see players come through the academy, you are grateful to watch that, and what they did last season was amazing.
“To win the league ahead of PSG and reach the semi-finals of the Champions League was unbelievable. I watched all the games and it was exciting to see how far they can go.”
As for Hearts, he has a clear target in mind. “Definitely Europe,” he insisted. “I’ve never played in the Europa League before. For me, that’s a goal to play in those sorts of games. It’s exactly the reason I chose to come to Hearts – probably the first reason.”